Connections in lockdown…….

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?

lake-3-1

Galway Kinnell’s 1983 poem Wait could have been written for this time.

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?

Wait.
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.

lake-photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose Memory 2……..

Not the time Jane threw a coffeepot at Don,
but the time they swam with turtles in Puako Bay.

The poem looks at how different memories are associated with events, people, places in our lives or in history. It pairs a negative memory with a positive one, implicitly inviting us to choose the good rather than the bad.

Journal prompt: write a series of couplets alternating negative and positive related memories,  beginning each:

Not the time……………

But the time…………….

cropped-dsc01256.jpgNostalgia, the bittersweet emotion, that mixture of regret for what has gone and sweetness of what it was, offers us the choice of focussing on the sadness and loss or the happiness, not wallowing in loss or bitterness but celebrating the good parts of our experience.

Nostalgia researcher Krystine Batcho says: “When we reminisce nostalgically, we want to bring the best of our past into our present”. She suggests that ruminating on a friendship that has ended can take us in two different ways – we can choose to focus on the loss, things that went wrong or we can focus on the good aspects of the experience:

Journal prompt: explore a friendship that has ended

What did you get out of it?

What did you share?

What are the things you want to remember?

How did it become a part of who you are today?

A recent study identified by Tokyo Metropolitan University identified  two characteristics of nostalgic memory:

1) they are personally significant

2) they are ‘chronologically remote’ and have not been much mulled over so that when they are recalled there is an element of novelty.

Nostalgic memories are often triggered by seeing an old photograph or an object from the past or hearing a tune or sound connected with an old event.

Journal prompt: look at a photograph or listen to a piece of music from your past

Set a timer for 15 minutes (so you don’t disappear into the past for too long).

Notice the sensations evoked in you. Write in the present tense about any memories that come to mind, describe them in detail.

After 15 minutes, read through what you’ve written and think about what you want to keep, what aspects you’d like to re-kindle (for example qualities or activities that you have allowed to lapse)  and what you have learnt.

 

If you have thoughts about these prompts please leave me a comment.

Notice: there are places still available on the half day workshop in Boulder on June 29th workshop

Expressive Writing for Health, Trauma Recovery and Wholeness: customise your journal for your needs

Choose Memory…..

6 degrees
6° F – so cold and bleak

In January people are often concerned with looking forward, making new resolutions , moving on. But what about remembering? What, or rather how, do you choose to remember?

On Tuesday it was 6°F, bitter cold – but a few days later it’s 60° F. I can choose what to remember about this and how to remember it  –  the temperature was a fact but there was beauty and some excitement in the extreme.

Joy Harjo’s poem Remember (which I have used in groups recently  – one person said ‘at last you’ve found one I like!’), invites us to remember many things about ourselves and the world. She exhorts us to connect with our lives and our worlds, and encourages resilience and strength. It begins:

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.

and continues with invitations to remember many things including:

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.

The poem calls us to Remember, as an injunction, 15 times.

People in my groups wrote deeply and movingly in different ways in response to this. Several people wrote about mothers, living or dead, someone wrote emotionally about her mother but also compassionately about her troubled self when her mother died. Some people wrote about their values and their beliefs, others wrote about specific people or events. They saw that they could choose what and how to remember – in writing about the past they chose how to think about it.

Jean-Paul Sartre said that there are things about the past that can’t be changed or denied, the facticity, but we can choose to change our attitude to those things.

In Christmas Days – 12 stories and 12 feasts for 12 days Jeanette Winterson echoes this:

…it’s a fact that our memories change as we do….you can go back in time, you can heal the past. It may be fixed as a fact – what happened happened – but it isn’t fixed in the ongoing story of our lives.

 

6 degrees and sunny
6°F and so beautiful and sunny

Journal prompt: Think about things you want to remember, choose the details and the attitude. Write a list poem (or simply a list) beginning each line:

Remember…

When you’ve finished read it through and give yourself some feedback beginning:

When I read this I feel………….

As 2018 begins – choose what you want to remember and what you want to bring with you. Leave a comment below.

 

 

Hope is the thing with feathers…….

Winter snowHere 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.
Please take
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—
Of grace.

–Denise Levertov

©material used for educational purposes.

Journal prompts:

DSC01229.

 

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

I hope………..

 

 

Landscapes real and imagined…

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View from my window – aspen gold

Leading up to the autumn equinox the aspen have started turning gold – some of them already bright, others yet to lose their green.

I’ve been thinking a lot about landscape as I’ve just submitted the chapter  Mary Reynolds Thompson and I have co-authored (Inner and Outer Landscapes: Bringing Environment into the Therapeutic Relationship through Expressive Writing) for a new book (Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature Assisted Theory and Practice eds Kopytin, A. & Rugh, M).

It gave us the opportunity to align our different ways of working (from ecological and existential therapy approaches) and really explore the common ground, looking at our shared favourite authors and discovering new ones. We consider the power of writing about landscapes, both real and imagined, and how that affects the psyche. There are three circles in the writing process we have developed, with exercises for each stage.

Here’s just one of the exercises adapted from our chapter:

Journal prompt: A Framed Literary Landscape

Sometimes landscapes in books can become as real and affective as actual inhabited landscapes. “Books, like landscapes, leave their marks in us” (Robert Macfarlane  The Old Ways) As Jean-Paul Sartre and Robert Macfarlane remind us, we are all readers before we are writers.

Structure, pacing and containment are established by the idea of a framed picture which captures a moment, just as a photographer frames a shot through the camera lens or an artist places a painting in a frame. The use of a literary, rather than a physical landscape, allows people to be less immersed in the lived experience of their own lives an its potential for anxiety

1) Think of a book that made an impression on you at some time in your life, where the landscape has entered your imagination and memory because it was almost a character in its own right.

Allow the landscape to come into focus as though you are looking through a camera, or at a picture in a frame.

2) Describe what you see within that frame, as though you were looking at a picture hanging on your wall.

3) Use the present tense, notice the colours, imagine the sounds, smells, see the relationships between the objects that make up the landscape.

Feedback Write: When I read this I feel…

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Denali in summer

Let me know what landscapes in what books have left their marks in you. Leave a comment here on this blog.