Writers’ Well – Message in a bottle

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beach bottle cold daylight

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Last Friday I decided to focus the session all loosely around the theme of Play, a huge topic, and in my opinion not in the LEAST frivolous. Play is where we’re allowed to make mistakes, to imagine, to interact, to know it’s ‘just’ a game, and thereby experience freedom, and thereby let in and welcome new insights without having to seriously and earnestly seek them out in an exhausting quest for ‘truth’, because we can’t seek out what we don’t yet know exists, and Play opens us to possibility, to the new and unknown. It loosens us up. Einstein used to play his violin, when he was a bit stuck with a theory. I’m sure there are other similar examples of clever minds using play to free their thoughts, so they can travel a bit further.

The prompt I’d like to share is super simple. I asked each writer to take a couple of pieces of paper, and write on each one a message that might conceivably be found in a bottle. I then asked one person to pick one of those messages, and read it aloud. We then all wrote a story inspired by that message being found in a bottle. Amazing how varied the imaginative responses to the same phrase! However, for now I can only share mine, unedited, written in ten minutes, just for the fun of it…enjoy 🙂

What goes around comes around. Or so they say. What were the odds? How many stars in the sky! But life can be funny like that.

The first warmer weather of the year had taken them out in the boat, and although his daughter was a little nervous at first, she was soon trailing her fingers in the sea, no longer alarmed by the rocking action of the boat in the gentle waves.

It was when they were coming back, slowed down to avoid hitting the rocks on the way back to the beach, “Dad! Dad! A bottle!”

It was caught in the rocks. It was green, no longer with a label, but looked like a beer bottle. “Get it Dad, there’s something in it! Get it!”

He jumped out of the boat, the water now shallow enough for him to walk, holding the wooden rim, oars safely in, and picked the bottle out of the rocks.

“Here,” he offered. “Open it.” There was a pop as she flipped the rusty old lid, and pulled out the paper inside.

“I can’t read it,” she says, offering it to him. Impossible.

“Dad, read it! What does it say?”

He doesn’t know why, but in his shock he’s not prepared to tell the truth. “You will always be lucky, when you’re near the sea – always make your home by the coast.”

“It doesn’t. It didn’t have that many words. What does it say?

“Surrounded by sharks! Help!”

HIs own handwriting, from, must’ve been ten years ago. A silly bit of fun on his honeymoon, with the wife he’d since lost. What had she written? He couldn’t remember. He lifted his daughter out of the boat, and told her the story.

 

Here’s the TED talk I watched that morning, before leading the writing group. I’ve returned to it a couple of times. It always makes me laugh…

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

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Writers’ Well – Food

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Food is something that’s, let’s face it, is always on my mind BUT particularly at the moment, and in new and deeper ways than – step away from the fridge, and let me in!

I recently read two fantastic books, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (of The Poisonwood Bible fame) and The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball. Both are memoirs exploring the daily reality of growing food, from seed to table. The beauty, the abundance, the challenge, the exhaustion and the broken and poisonous current large scale food production systems we have created, and that have distanced us so much from the meal on our plate. I highly recommend them both.

Rather than explore this topic in essay form, I decided to feed it into (!) last week’s writing session, as a prompt for a poem. The form of the prompt was this:

Draw a line in the centre of a blank page.

Above the line draw a tree trunk, with (to start with) three branches leading off with the words WHO (do we eat it with?), WHERE (do we eat it?) WHAT (do we like/not like to eat?).

Below the line, draw roots, again labelled WHO (grows it?) WHERE (does it come from?), WHAT (does it need in order to grow?)

Now, at your whim and pleasure, extend those branches off in any direction with your own spontaneous answers/responses to those questions, until you end up with something like this:

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Of course, that activity alone could go on for a very long time, we spent no more than five minutes harvesting thoughts and ideas, and then shared them for some fruitful creative cross-pollination. Then, I invited each writer to pen a poem, in just ten minutes, inspired by that exploration. This is what I wrote:

 

I say I eat alone

Often alone, with my computer

And iPlayer for company

But if the essence of all those

Involved in the meal

that waits on my plate

were present as I ate

my bedroom would be pretty full

 

of the worms that turned the soil

and the people that toiled in

all weathers, somewhere on this planet

we share, there’s a man, woman or child

with a name and a family of their own

who played a part in growing

this food that waits on my plate

 

so am I really alone

when I eat? Would I slow down

eat less fast if I knew, if I felt

the aching back, the cold wet hands,

the burnt skin on the cheeks of

those who spent hours, days, weeks

growing harvesting, transporting that food

that waits on my plate

 

if they stood watching over my shoulder

would I be more aware of the taste

before I swallow, give thanks for the

rain, sun, earth and air that

conspired in this everyday alchemy not

to ensure I was fed but simply to honour

the cycle of give and take and life

and death and nourish and be nourished

that has been in place long before

this meal that waits on my plate

 

I was very moved by all the different responses, and to discover that most of us in the writing circle that day ate most of our meals alone, which leaves me with many questions…food for thought 🙂

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Writers’ Well – Beauty, Zoom in/Zoom out

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selective focus photography of white flowering tree

Photo by Abby Chung on Pexels.com

 

This prompt, from last Friday’s session, began with each of us writing down the name of a place or thing we consider to be beautiful, each on our own sheet of paper. We then passed that paper on, receiving another from our left, and added a further example, until our own sheet was back with us…

 

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When we had our own papers back, I asked each writer to choose one from their list, and turn over. We then divided the blank side into three columns. In the middle column I asked them to write five words they associated with, or that described, the beautiful place/thing they’d chosen.

 

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In the column to the left, I asked them to write a heading ‘Zoom-in’, and I asked them to imagine zooming in on their thing/place. What did they see/notice now? Again, five words.

 

Finally, in the column to the right I asked them to write the heading ‘Zoom-out’, and again write five words as they imagined zooming out on the image of their beautiful thing/place.

 

All of which was a gathering of words, and a thematic exploration in preparation for…the writing of a poem. In ten minutes. This is what I wrote, raw and unedited – enjoy!

 

 

Pink, white, tiny

Petalled flags that signal life’s

Generosity and willingness

To feed if we’re willing to wait

Because they are just the beginning

 

Bees nuzzle in

Getting up close and personal

Drawn by the sweet scent

Life is full of sweet and sting

So very close together

 

Trees in rows

And rows the fruit

Grows beside longer days

Until some branches need help

To hold the weight of abundance

 

Children play among daffodils

And get chased by the wasps

Hidden inside, burrowed

Deep into the white pink

Tinged juicy flesh until

 

The sun has sunk a little lower

And the ladders come out

To lean against laden trees

Who keep their best at the tips

Of top most branches that

Sway just out of reach

Reach up and pick

 

An apple eaten straight

From the tree to fuel

Those gathering and placing

Carefully in boxes lest

They bruise the fruit that began

As blossom on a branch all

Those months ago

 

All those years ago

We had an apple tree

At the bottom of the garden

Plum and pear too

I wonder if fruit still grows

In the orchard of my childhood

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

NaPoWriMo – Day Two, Donate Books

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pile of books

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Day two – Donate used books to a library…so, the topic is simply – Books!

Oh books, how I read thee
Let me count the ways
(well, five anyway)

Open
Read
Enjoy
Close
Thanks
Next

Open
Read
Close door
Phone off
Open door
Make tea
Close door
Read read read
Temporarily leave earth
The end
Land
Wow!

Open
Read
Enjoy
Read
That is NOT an ending!
THAT IS NOT AN ENDING!!!
Throw (trying not to break spine
of book)

Open
Read
Smile
Love
Hug
Keep…
Shit day
Go to bed with shelf mate
Read
Breathe
Repeat
As often as needed
(best with a whole series)

Open
Read
Enjoy
Close
Cool!
Write
Write to author
Thanks!
Write
Read again
Take notes

 

Any suggestions as to which books you would put in which category?! Or want to guess mine 🙂 Comments section awaits…

NaPoWriMo – Day One, Say Hello to a Stranger

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100days

 

For my birthday, I got a book from a dear friend entitled ‘100 Days of Kindness’, and, it being the 1st of a new month, I thought I’d start – and see if I can’t get a poem out of it each day…at least for this month anyway, because April is NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) http://www.napowrimo.net/ whose invitation is to write a poem a day for thirty days…

 

DAY ONE – Say Hello to a Stranger

I pass a young woman

With asymmetrical hair part

Long part shaved to one inch in

A funky kind of way we

Exchange smiles and I remember

Today I’m supposed to say

Hello to a stranger

 

There’s a guy coming my way

Dark hair and a beard

I’m prepared and

Say hello and

Am ignored stared past

Into invisibility while we

Both keep walking

 

I meet the dog before

The owner and say a warm

Hello to this short legged rotund

Little mutt with gentle eyes and

Fur turning grey it occurs to me

I would’ve said hello to the dog anyway

Not just on hello a stranger day

 

The owner I see first from

The back he’s wearing a black

Cap with flames in orange

Yellow red he turns and his hair

Is going a little grey too

he says morning at exactly

the same time as I say hello

 

So I don’t know –

Does that count?

Writers’ Well – Friendship is…

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I am blessed, as I hope and guess are you, with some truly incredible friends. This week’s prompt was inspired by gratitude for the gift of friendship.

We began by taking 3 pieces of blank paper each, on which we completed the phrase, Friendship is … 

We then put all those ideas on the table, and moved them around until we had a collective poem of sorts. See the stitched together version in the photo, now hanging from my wardrobe as a beautiful reminder. If you can’t read the writing, it’s typed out below..

Friendship is…

caring and worrying about them
integral to human community
a way to build community
surprising and lovely when it happens
a way of showing/spreading love
what makes the world go round
a walk in the park
the sun that helps me bloom
possible with trees and animals too
putting somebody’s feelings before your own
having fun and laughing
laughing with someone on your wavelength
something to celebrate
what I turn to when life gets too big and frightening
a gentle trusting between souls
nourishment to the soul
sharing a meal that lasts three hours longer than intended…

 

We then each used that as fuel and inspiration for an individual poem, written in just ten minutes. This is what I wrote. By no means a brilliant poem, but I think the sentiment is clear…and I may work on it more another time. For now – enjoy!

 

You are not alone

I am here with you

 

And it doesn’t matter

that the new pasta sauce

you wanted to try

spices the roof off our mouths

because the food is the excuse

not the main source of nourishment

 

friendship doesn’t come

with cooking instructions

sometimes soul spills over

and I try hard to mop it up

without the mess

and the need to clean

being seen

but you’re too quick

 

let me help you with that

and the light in the soul

we mop up brings

a shine to us both

 

and though I am me

and you are you

now there’s a bit

of me on you too

 

because soul spills

stain in a way that can’t

be washed out

 

the more I spill and break

the more I share and lose

because the less of me

I hold on to

the more room I make

for pieces of you

to stain me too

 

Mosaics are colourful

broken bits breathed into new life

that feels an image that’s whole

and finds a place for every broken

piece until the rediscovered beauty

is complete

 

Because it is not alone

but surrounded by beauty that

is like its own but

shaped differently

 

I was tired

you were tired

but time had lost its power

and the ‘move on, move on’

refrain fell further

and further away

 

friendship spills

from diary notes that

say it ends at nine

 

You are not alone

I am here with you

and there is always time

 

 

What are your thoughts on Friendship? Comments section is waiting! And don’t just tell me – tell those friends! Let them know how special they are.

 

Love and blessings all…

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Writers’ Well – Safety

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This prompt began with each writer being asked to complete each of the following three half sentences five times, with their own thoughts:

 

I feel safe when… (x 5)

I don’t feel safe when… (x 5)

When I feel safe I can… (x 5)

 

We then, individually, re-read what we’d written and used that as a springboard to write a poem in ten minutes. This is what I wrote:

 

 

First do no harm

First find a place

A space of no harm

Then, like a turtle

or snail coming out of its shell

let all that you are

be available to you

 

Can we look for a bigger shell?

If safe spaces are too small

we risk shrinking and disappearing

into fear

 

So what is safety

in a world full of risk

where all life is vulnerable

like spring blossom

soft and delicate

 

waiting for the bee

with no control over the weather

that might deny

its destiny to fruit and feed

 

but the blossom will not refuse to

reveal itself when the conditions are right

we cannot wait for guaranteed safety

before offering to serve

only blossom with trust

that we have played our part

and given the bees the opportunity

to play theirs

 

I was quite surprised by the questions this exercise brought up for me. Safety is sold to us as something that can be guaranteed, and for which certain individuals and/or organisations are responsible for ensuring. But the truth is, life is by its very nature vulnerable and risky. So, what do we do with that truth when we face fear? I don’t have answers, just sharing my questions…

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

Writers’ Well – Love Letter From Gaia

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I remember reading in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic something about a friend of hers who was teaching about the environment. I can’t find the quote right now, so I’m paraphrasing. Her first lesson began with two questions. “Do you love nature?” Lots of nodding heads, and assurances of “Yes, of course!” The second question, “Do you believe nature loves you?” At first, silence. Then, “But that’s ridiculous! That’s not possible!” And her friend replies, “There’s our problem. Right there.”

We could argue semantics; try to define love, try to define nature, but that’s not the point. We are in relationship. The trees breathe in what we expel and expel what we breathe in. If you’re a gardener you know, you see the plants respond to your care. I could list many examples of the deeply interconnected world we live in. Is it not the height of arrogance to assume engagement in this relationship is all one way? I don’t mean disneyfying nature, or anthropomorphizing, I mean at a deeper, cellular level. We are, after all, all made of the same stuff.

 

So this week, the prompt was to write a love letter from Gaia. from nature, from mother earth, from the planet – however you choose to phrase it in order to connect with that ‘something bigger’.

 

I will share what I wrote, though it is incomplete, because this love letter will always be incomplete. It needs to be lived and re-heard every day, as it is rewritten in the moving clouds, the changing weather, the buds coming to life on branches bare for so long. This is just what I felt and wrote in those ten minutes:

 

 

Dear Ones

There are laws, and there is love. Even love has laws, laws that say the sun and the rain must offer their life giving rays and drops to all equally, whatever lies in their path is equally loved and needy of nourishment.

You are part of nature. You are loved, as much and equally. There can be no favourites with me.  But there are laws. Nature’s laws. Love’s laws. Fight them, fear them, and you can not thrive. 

I can not change the laws of love or nature for anyone or anything. You are loved. You are not loved any more or less than any other being on this planet. Favourites and comparison is not the nature of love. Love flows wherever it can be received.

Rain falls, sun alights on whatever is in its path. Put up barriers, and the rain and the sun can not get in, but they do not stop or disappear. They simply go wherever else they can be received. Falling on a roof, the rain runs down and is soaked up by the earth. Shrubs in the shade will not feel the full force of the sun’s warmth.

There is free will. There are laws. Humanity is neither above nor beneath those laws, but subject to them, as is every other being. Natural laws are your friends and guides. Use them, wonder at them, honour them and you will thrive.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, here are a couple of others on a similar theme:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/the-butterflys-cocoon/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/love-is-a-verb/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/a-natural-curriculum/

 

And if you’re looking for more prompts to inspire your own writing and creativity, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

Writers’ Well – Listening

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climate change kids

Photo Credit: http://www.theguardian.com/uk

The prompt I’d like to share this week is inspired by the young people who took to the streets of the UK last Friday to campaign for action in relation to the Climate Crisis. On Thursday, the day before the action, I heard an interview on the radio with a man whose name I’ve forgotten, but the derision and patronising tone was unmistakable and unforgettable. He is one of those who is not listening, does not hear what these young people are leaving their classrooms to have heard. Not being listened to hurts. It’s not about agreeing – of course there will be, should be, must be, differing opinions…but please, Listen.

To warm us up on this topic, I asked each writer to complete the following half sentences five times, with whatever thoughts came:

When I am not listened to…

When I am truly listened to…

When I truly listen…

I then asked everyone to re-read, just for themselves, what they’d written and take that as inspiration to write a poem – in ten minutes.

 

This is what I wrote:

 

 

Be careful what you wish for

You never know who’s listening

 

Good listeners are fishermen

Patiently sensitive to the

Slightest movement on the line

Letting it drop down deep

 

Good listeners are bakers

Letting the yeast of your story

Feed their understanding and curiosity

Until there’s enough to nourish

Many more but it must

Be baked daily

 

Where are you

Fishermen

Bakers?

 

If someone speaks

And there’s no one to hear them

Did they say

Anything at all?

 

I listen to the song of the river

The drums of the earth

The whisper of the wind

And the hum of the sun

 

They don’t interrupt

When I ask them to listen back

And when I let them

I am free

The wild in me comes out

And hears itself

 

Until life gets noisy

And it runs away

Like a startled doe

 

Not lost

Just gone deeper

 

Listening is a topic I’ve returned to a few times, because I seem to regularly need the reminder of its importance, both in the receiving and in the offering.  Here are a couple of links therefore to other posts on this theme:

 

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/a-personal-motto/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/listening-a-good-deeds-post/

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/napowrimo-18-listen/

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

Tune your ears to Hope

This video was just uploaded today, and brought back such wonderful memories, I thought it was worth re blogging this post. Enjoy!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1xX2hW3jOM&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3mRfMi3XEi4GLeNTIhNW1LYRPYqja64i8K4N0bIYy1ToqTCJoHH02P8ZE

wordsthatserve

GC-Xmas-18-500

I performed this poem last night as part of a fantastic fundraising Christmas Concert by the choir I used to sing with, the fabulous http://www.gloriouschorus.co.uk , led by the amazing Helen Yeomans. Now I share it here for others to enjoy too…

Tune your ears to hope

and hear the real news,

seek the true news that lives

far beyond the front pages

for it is too wild, too bright,

to be trapped in black and white.

Cultivate neighbourhoods

of brotherhood, sisterhood,

lighting up your communities

like Christmas trees,

with evergreen kindness

that blooms with compassion,

whatever the season.

There is no room

for a fair-weather faith in humanity

we must believe in our capacity

to make choices that take down walls

instead of building them.

So practise “Welcome!” and “Come in!”

in as many languages

as there are places at your table

because home is simple –

It’s heads…

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