Lost and Found

Fallen limbs and pathless woods
no obstacle for a wild child
left to her own devices,
searching for a self.

Only with age, and sprouting
curves, did I learn to be afraid
of shadows, that the woods
equated with wolves and lurking

And that abandoned places
house evil – held captive there
just this side of adolescence –
lost all that innocence gifts

Still I go to the woods –
stick to the well worn paths –
like to reminisce about old times,
invite that wild child along.

(Inspired by Reena’s Exploration challenge: “This is where I lost myself … this is where I found myself.” Images from personal collection.)

Together a Tapestry

Across the miles, our words
convene, threads of our lives
intertwining to form a tapestry.

Stories of sorrow and kindness,
humanity restored –
of observation and empathy
of inspiration through resonance
of brilliance and artistry.

Each thread as colourful
as another, delicately added,
thoughtful ponderings

Of generations and legacies,
misunderstandings
contributing to tragedy,
of infatuation and love’s fallacy,
of childhood and noses in books
and entanglements leading
to ultimate change…

How vivid the imagery,
how poignant the messages
how loss creates heartfelt connection,
and youth’s folly succumbs to sorrow
and how darkness, deeply felt
surrenders to soul’s magnitude.

We come together across the miles
our words, like threads guiding us,
love our searchlight, higher ground
our common goal –
together, as a tapestry.


****

It’s been a week of stories – some fabricated, some told in images, some deeply moving. Reading back through them, I was inspired to write the above, borrowing from the essence of each and sometimes even extracting words.

Thank you to all for contributing. Your presence here fills my week and my heart. If you haven’t already visited the rest of the community, please take a moment to drop by:

chosenperspectives
Proscenium
MICHNAVS
Pictures without film.
Sweet Aroma
one letter UP
Stuff and what if…
Singledust
Sgeoil
Willow Poetry
What Rhymes with Stanza?
Poetry For Healing



Tell Us A Story, Grandma!

“Tell us a story, Grandma! Tell us about when you were a girl?”

The question throws me. First, because childhood is so far away, but secondly, because my stories are tainted with pain and hurt. Looking into this pair of eager eyes though, I know they want a story filled with good will and hope.

“Well,” I begin, and they snuggle in closer to listen. Outside the winds have picked up and the sleet of earlier has given way to soft thuds – snow. Stories at bedtime are a ritual with these two, if not a book, then a story about their parents’ youth, usually.

“When I was a little girl, about your age, every winter my father built a skating rink in the back yard.”

“I know how to skate!”

“Me too, and I’m fast.”

“I bet you are. Imagine every day that you come home from school being able to strap on your skates and go into the backyard to your very own rink.”

“Wow. That must have been awesome! Did you fall very often?”

“Sometimes, but there were usually snowbanks around the side and that softened the blow. I remember how we used to shovel paths in the snow and pretend they were streets and act as if we were driving our cars.”

“Who skated with you?”

“My sisters. My dad put a flood light on the rink, so we could skate past dark, and he hooked up a speaker to play music and my sisters and I would give performances, pretending we were figure skaters.”

“Were you figure skaters?”

“No. The lessons were too far away. I went for awhile, but the walk too long and I gave up.”

“Your Mom didn’t drive you?”

“Not in those days. She was too busy.”

“Was that the best part of winter, Grandma. Your own rink?”

“I certainly enjoyed it. The best part I remember though, is coming in at the end of the night, with my cheeks and fingers frozen from the cold, and having a mug of hot chocolate. My mom would always have a pot of hot milk on the stove waiting for us.”

“With marshmallows?”

“Marshmallows are the best!”

“Yes, they are.”

“Can we have hot chocolate tomorrow, Grandma?”

“I don’t see why not. Now, I want you both to go off to sleep. It’s snowing outside and if this keeps up, we may be able to make a snowman in the morning.”

They’ll whisper and giggle after I turn out the light, and I leave the door open a crack, bringing with me the warmth of their little hearts snuggled up to mine, and the glow of remembering something good from my childhood.

(My challenge this week is story. There are so many stories that weave together to make up our lives – some of them real, some of them imagined. Telling our stories, one at a time, opens us to the possibility of healing. The above story is true in the sense that it describes an aspect of my childhood that was good. The framework around it – a sleepover with the granddaughters – is only imagined, although they do like me to tell them stories. At this stage in my life, ready to let go of the anguish and pain, I am ready to retell my life story. This is a good place to start.)

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #37: Story

My very first blog post on this site is entitled “Relevance of Story“. It was inspired by the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie whose Ted Talk: The Danger of a Single Story, challenged me to think differently about how, as a teacher, I approached my craft. Her words are also a recipe for living compassionately.

Each time we open a blog post and read, we are touching a part of someone’s story. Every time we commit our words to the page, we are presenting a part of our own story. It’s never a complete picture.

There are many ways we might approach this challenge: dig up a story from our timelines, tell a story about the future, offer a story through images, or even uncover the story of another.

Not sure, what I’m going to do yet, but I have a feeling this challenge will uncover much – looking forward to your responses.

To participate: create a post with a focus on story, tag it with VJWC, link back here, and enjoy the creativity of this community.

The Bottom of The Ravine

I spotted him as soon as I exited the back door of the school.  He stood on the field, just off the paved area where students were now scattering after the final bell.  He wore a bulky, beige parka, fists shoved into jean pockets, a few locks of dirty blonde hair falling over cold grey eyes; his glare confrontational.  His name was Guy and while he seldom attended school, where his size was notable, whenever he did show up there was bound to be trouble.

Our eyes locked for a moment, and not wanting to show any fear, I pulled myself up taller, adjusted the jacket I’d thrown over my arm, grasped my books firmly and tried to look calm as I headed for home.th-1

Home was an apartment building just across a steep ravine.  To access it by road required a long walk equating to a mile or more, so if weather permitted, I would take the trail down the ravine and across a large sewer pipe supported on either side by mounds of earth built up around it.  Since the day was unusually warm – the first signs of spring – I decided to take the short cut.

In my peripheral vision I saw that Guy had started moving in the same direction.  He lived in my building, so I guessed he was just going home, but just to be sure, I decided to walk on the narrow dirt path beside the sewer pipe so he wouldn’t get any ideas, such as pushing me off.

I was looking straight ahead and walking at a confident pace when his body hit mine – a full impact blow that both winded me and caused to me lose my footing.  Mind racing, I tried to surmise what was happening, as my hands grasped at rocks, twigs, anything to stop my tumbling descent.  I managed to right myself for a moment before he came at me again – a tan blur of rage – felt searing pain in my shoulder as he wrestled me to the ground.  I struck out with the good arm and caught the hood of his jacket, but he just squirmed out from under it, an evil grin on his face as he gripped my other arm, yanking the shoulder out of its socket.  On the ground now, I kicked back, feeling my own demon rising up.  I cussed and spat until finally, tossing a handful of dirt and rocks in my face, he got up and walked away, his hulking body unmarred by our melee.

“That’s for all of us!” he spat, pleased with himself for his actions.

A few timid bystanders handed me my books and jacket as I gingerly made my way up the steep slope to solid ground.  Every movement made me wince with pain, and I felt my head reeling, but I wasn’t going to let them see me cry.  I’d never been well-received at this new school, and now I knew for sure what they thought of me.  Guy had delivered that message loud and clear.1974roadtrip

“No broken bones,” the emergency doctor reported.  “Two dislocated shoulders and a lot of bruising that will be tender for a while.  I think she’d best take it easy for a few a days – I’ll give her a prescription for the pain.  Have you called the police?”

“Suppose I should?”  My mother seemed uncertain.

“If she was my daughter, I would,” the doctor raised an eyebrow, patted me gently and walked off to the next patient.

“His mother seems to think you provoked it,” the officer read from a small, spiral notepad.  “Says you insult her son often.  Have been mouthy at school.”

Really, I thought, you’re going to blame this on me?

“Well, she does has a history of fighting,” my mother offered.

Okay, it was true, but not this time.  This time, I didn’t ask for it.  I walked away!

“I think you two had better shake and make up,” the officer decided and then left to fetch my assailant.  th-2

Guy’s mother pushed her son into the apartment, smoke from her lit cigarette trailing up from a bony hand.  Guy looked smugly unfazed by the police presence.

“You need to leave my boy alone,”  his mother said.  She was a small, wiry woman, her face lined with deep wrinkles.  Hard, I think the word would be.

He needs to back off me!  I wanted to say, except I was hurting too much to speak.

“Shake!”

Guy took his hand out and I reluctantly placed mine in it, limply offering a truce.

“Now stay away!” his mother warned.

The policeman closed the door behind them. I stared at the space they once occupied and wondered how it had all gone so wrong – the move to this school, my classmates turning on me, the beating, and now the blame.

Was I really that horrid of a person?

How would I ever return to school again and face the haters?

It was 1969 and I was eleven-years-old. That was the year I learned to hate myself.  I made a vow to be tougher, to hold my head high and never falter.  I would be strong.th-3

It was also a time when I learned to doubt myself, devaluing the things that had previously defined me – my intellect, my sense of justice, my desire to make a difference in the world.  I buried them all beneath a happy-go-lucky exterior.  Better to appear dumb and blend in then make a scene.

A bully may have defiled me, but it was I who decided to bury the best parts of me at the bottom of that ravine.

(Art from imgarcade.com)

Relevance of Story

tumblr_m5la7jaiR11ryx9g7o1_1280

Stories have power.  In my many roles as parent, therapist, teacher, and public speaker, I have long known that the secret to engaging an audience and communicating purpose is through illustration:  storytelling.

I see it in the eyes of my three and four-year old granddaughters who beg to hear a tale again and again, stopping to ask why and question all the different parts.

I have seen it in the eyes of the wounded trying to make sense of their past: the craving for a story that gives them validation.

I see it in the eyes students, when recognition and understanding light up.

I’ve seen it in the eyes of audiences, who tear up or laugh in the telling of a relevant tale.

No one explains the power of story better than Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TED Talk:  The Danger of a Single Story.  Author of Americanah, Adichie is an important literary voice.