At the beginning of this lockdown, in the middle of March, the lake was frozen. So much was frozen. The levels of anxiety and uncertainty stacked up, personal griefs nestled inside the larger griefs as we adapted to the local conditions and read about the wider world. When everything changes and nothing changes, what do we do?
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Journal prompt: What are you waiting for? What are you missing? What do you hope to keep from this time?
When you read what you’ve written, what do you notice?
One form of connection, the touch of another human, even the casual touch, may only be a memory for some people, stored in the body. but other forms of connection may be strengthened as other forms of communication are revived or practised differently; text, e-mail, phone, social media, Zoom, even handwritten letters.
Journal prompt: Think about how you are communicating with people, with whom?
Make lists (linear, circular or clusters) of the people you are in contact with and your preferences for communicating with them. What do you notice? How do you feel about the interactions? Is anyone missing? Is there someone you’d like to connect with that you haven’t?
What do you want to do while you are waiting – why not write someone a letter?
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
The lake in late May is no longer frozen but we are still waiting.
Here is the link to the third in the series of free audio workshops on Writing for Resilience: Shifting our emotional landscapes that Mary Reynolds Thompson & I put together in response to the fires in northern California, the floods and hurricanes in other places and the general turmoil in which we live. In this one we begin to look at regeneration and renewal.
Thank you to everyone who has commented on these, shared their responses with us and the links with others.
Continuing this theme – here’s a poem by Denise Levertov, another transplant from the UK to the US, who swapped the landscape of her birth (Ilford, England) for the landscape of the west (Seattle, USA).
Hope It’s True
I have a small grain of hope –
One small crystal that gleams
Clear colors out of transparency.
I need more.
I break off a fragment
To send you.
This grain of hope
So mine won’t shrink.
Please share your fragment
So that yours will grow.
Only so, by division,
Will hope increase,
Like a clump of irises which will cease to flower
Unless you distribute
The clustered roots, unlikely source—
Clumsy and earth-covered—
©material used for educational purposes.
What is hope for you?
List the people with whom you share hope
Write a letter to someone who gave you hope or to whom you gave hope.
Write an 8 line list poem, beginning each line
The second free mini workshop in the series Writing for Resilience: Shifting our Emotional Landscape is available for you to listen to here. (The link to workshop 1 is in the previous post.)
In this Mary Reynolds Thompson and I guide you through a two part write about a favourite literary landscape. This exercise is adapted from our chapter Inner and Outer Landscapes: bringing environment into the therapeutic relationship through expressive writing in Environmental Expressive Therapies.
There are many books with a strong sense of place, where the landscape itself becomes a character. I can remember many books I read as a child that featured strong or memorable scenery – some landscapes were familiar to me, others gave me access to new and different worlds. As an adult, reading books set in previously familiar but now distant landscapes is another joy and way to re-connect with my past.
Journal prompt: Make a list of landscapes in books that have made an impression on you. What do you notice about this list? Make notes on the significance of each one.
Do let me know what books with strong landscapes have made an impression on you, an impression that perhaps you have retained. Please leave a comment on this post.
Although the lake here is full at this time and we have snow on the ground, there is not the same calm and safety for many people and communities that we know. Perhaps you or someone you know is personally affected by the fires, floods, earthquakes indelibly changing the landscape, or perhaps the news brings it into your awareness with brutal immediacy. In these troubling times, when there are natural disasters affecting so many people and communities, it is so easy to feel paralyzed and helpless whilst simultaneously wanting and needing to offer something in whatever way we can.
So I was delighted when my friend and colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson suggested that we record a series of free audio mini-workshops on Writing for Resilience: Shifting your Emotional Landscape.
You can listen to the first of three mini-workshops here.
This episode offers a three-part writing prompt emerging from our joint work on the relationship between Inner and Outer Landscapes. The intention is to help you ground yourself in these troubling times, whatever challenges are facing you.
We hope it may be useful to you or someone you know.
Writing holds a special place among the activities that people use to calm and heal themselves. It is physical, patterned, organised, rhythmic, and directed at a goal. But it is more. It also creates meaning as it flows.
from Surviving Survival: the Art & Science of Resilience by Laurence Gonzales
This is a new textbook which covers a wide range of creative therapies, and how people incorporate nature into the work. Mary Reynolds Thompson & I co-authored the chapter:
Inner and Outer Landscapes: Bringing Environment into the therapeutic relationship through Expressive Writing
Don’t forget:you can request this or any of the other titles from your local library
Journal Prompt: Explore your relationship with reading over your life – has it changed? Can you remember learning to read? Who was involved with your early reading?
What ‘bookish’ memories come to you?
A version of the following article appeared in the June edition of Integrating Connections
I am a compulsive reader – I read to learn about the world and to understand my own world. The urge to create a meaningful narrative from the events of a life, to understand and to learn, is one of the reasons people come to psychotherapy. Psychotherapists and authors might therefore agree that we read to make sense of our lives and our experience.
Sometimes our professional and personal lives align in a novel in ways that can illuminate both. Recently I picked up a couple of novels from the New Books Shelf at my local library. By chance, they both contained adoption themes:
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
A Book of American Martyrs – Joyce Carol Oates
I work a lot with clients with adoption stories (from different parts of the adoption triad). I run a group for adoptees. I am an adoptee. Perhaps this makes me particularly sensitive to these themes; I know I am profoundly grateful when I find them. These stories occur in adult fiction from Wuthering Heights to The Orphan Train. Children’s literature has always been full of adoption stories – think of Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, The Once and Future King. Novels are extra resources I can suggest to clients and show me new perspectives on their stories and my own.
The Novel Cure – An A-Z of Literary Remedies (Berthoud and Elderkin 2013) has a very short section on adoption – if you have come across any books (fiction, non-fiction – as I said, I’m eclectic) with these themes please do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a note on this post.