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Posts Tagged ‘keep the hand moving’

2013 03 24_1551 auto 2

Walking The Bluff, last Midwest Writing Retreat, Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, Grafton, Wisconsin, March 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Writing friends are hard to come by. Friends who are good practitioners of writing, even harder. The last time I saw Bob was at the Milwaukee airport in March 2013. He smiled and gave me a hug, then we walked to separate gates after five days of Sit, Walk, Write with Jude and Teri. We met many years ago at a Natalie Goldberg writing retreat in Taos, New Mexico. The Midwest Writing Group we formed has continued to meet every year since to practice writing. To honor silence.

For me, Bob was one of the pillars of our writing group. He held the space, led the slow walking, kept time when we wrote, engaged in lively discussions at the dinners he prepared. He was an excellent cook. I will never forget his laugh. Bob contributed work to red Ravine and continued to post practices with me after others fell away. I could count on him. Today, Sunday, August 4th, 2013 at 3:30pm, a memorial service for Robert Tyler Chrisman will be held at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 4501 Walnut St., Kansas City, Missouri.

Bob Chrisman, born Robert Tyler Chrisman on May 3, 1952 in St. Joseph, Missouri, passed away peacefully Friday, July 12, 2013, at Kansas City Hospice following a massive stroke. He was surrounded by family and friends who sang to him until his final breath. When I was reading back through Bob’s writing on red Ravine, I realized we had done a Writing Practice together in 2011 on Death & Dying. I find comfort in his words:


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Why all this focus on death at a time of year when the world screams with life and beauty? Why must death occur during these spring months when the earth bursts forth in new life and beautiful shades of yellow-green, when flowers of all colors open and scent the air, and when we can say, “Winter is gone for at least seven months”? Why?

Maybe all this life and beauty replaces the darkness and depression of the winter and I want no more of it. Give me life in all of its forms and beauty. I suffer enough during the winter and I’m over it, but I’m not, it seems.

I notice the beauty and revel in it because I know the bleakness of winter. Joy returns to my life because I know that the good times may not last forever. The friends I carry in my heart as the treasures of a lifetime will die. I must rejoice in their being while they are with me and not put that off for a change in the season or the approach of death.

How is it that the richness of life requires us to know the poverty of despairing times? Does it work like salt on cantaloup or watermelon? The saltiness makes the sweetness that much sweeter as death makes life more precious.

If I could stop death and dying, would I? No, I would let things happen as they must. I might even bring death to those I love earlier if they desired it, but that’s not my place in life. Sitting next to the bedside of a friend who’s dying makes me aware of the value of the time we had together and what a loss their death will be. If they must die (and they must), I can spend the final days and hours with them and carry them and those times in my heart until I pass from this earth.


-Bob Chrisman, excerpt from a 2011 Writing Practice on the WRITING TOPIC — DEATH & DYING.

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GATE GATE PARAGATE
PARASAMGATE
BODHI SVAHA

Gone, gone, gone beyond
Gone completely beyond
Praise to awakening


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 4th, 2013. I miss you, friend. And I carry you in my heart until I pass from this earth. I believe..

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Moveable Feast Practice, photo © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedI remember the first time I thought about writing with other people. A friend at work had asked me to join a writing group that was meeting once a week in my neck of the woods. The invitation was tempting, but I turned it down.

I was a new mother and as much as I longed to write, I had an even greater need for the kinship and validation that came from getting together with other new mothers. So rather than joining the writing group, I spent my social time in a mother-and-infant group. But I held on to the idea that I would someday write with others.

That day came once Dee turned two. By then I’d stopped getting together with moms and toddlers and decided it was time to feed my soul in a new way. I can still picture Jim standing on the porch with Dee on his hip, the two of them waving good-bye as I drove away to my first weekly writing group session. I felt like I was heading off on a roadtrip.

Which it was, in many respects. I was a member of that particular group for five years. There were about four of us who were hard-core and another two or three who attended occasionally. Most the time we met at the sprawling adobe home of my friend Teresa, whose wonderfully creative writing you can find on a blog called Cuentos. Our group loosely followed the rules of Writing Practice, but with more experimentation. We were open to everything, and everything we wrote we did with complete abandonment.

We used all sorts of prompts: topics written on strips of paper we carried around in a worn baggy. Sculptures. Images cut out of magazines. Free association of words. One of my favorite things we did was a “moveable feast” type of practice where each person wrote for two or three minutes then passed our notebook to the person on our right, wrote for two more minutes, passed, wrote, passed, and so on for a couple of rounds. The resulting collaborative pieces often had us rolling on the floor, and once in a while we’d turn out something brilliant, in an avante garde sort of way.

Goonaday And Other Mysterious Words, photo © 2007 by ybonesy, all rights reservedWe also mixed drawing and writing practice. One person in our group loved the concept of keeping the hand moving yet she preferred pastels to the pen. Just like the rest of us, she took off on whatever prompt we threw out, and when time was up and we all read our pieces, she showed us hers.

Another favorite prompt was to take a book off the shelf, open it to a page and read the first line, then write. Or we’d pick out phrases instead of full sentences. I still have some of these phrases written on a piece of paper: listen to me; Winifred on her hip; their spears upright with heads of shining steel; Why so angry with me, friend?

One time we wrote syllables onto strips of paper then randomly connected the syllables together to make new words, which we used in a timed practice. I even wrote definitions for my words. Here, one of them:

Goonaday: In some parts of Northern NM, “goona” is used to refer to “god’s goodness.” Goonaday is synonymous with Sunday.

This fall it will ten years since I began writing with other writers. Nowadays I write with an online writing group that just formed recently and with a local group that meets about twice a month. And through this blog, I write with a growing community of folks who live all over the place, people I know intimately and people I’ve barely begun to know through the Internet. I’m even writing with friends who I never knew were writers.

Teresa, who still has her writing group, is hosting her annual half-day-long writing retreat one Sunday in July. I’m invited, and I plan to be there, to show up for myself and for the other writers. I think it would be a fine way to spend a Goonaday.

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