A Little Night Music

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Weekly I write with two friends. Sometimes we write face-to-face; more likely, we write by conference call. It’s a sign of the times: we only live a few blocks from one another and yet… given the pace of our lives…

We each come with a writing prompt- sometimes a word or a phrase; other times an excerpt from an essay or poem. We share our prompts, set the timer for 20 minutes, hang up the phones; and respond to the prompt of our choosing. When time runs out, we reconnect and take turns reading what we have written.

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One of the Spotted Orb Weavers basking in the warmth of our porch light.

This Monday my prompt came from W.S. Merwin. His poem Night Singing  begins with a series of phrases that follow the word ‘after.’ My prompt followed Merwin’s series of afters. There is nothing at all for me to say. One nightingale is singing nearby in the oaks where I can see nothing but darkness.

My first thought was to write my own series of afters: after I feed the dog and top up the bird feeders; after I make a second pot of coffee; after I deadhead the fading flowers in the garden…

But with the clock ticking… with the guillotine poised… glinting over my head… I had a second thought. The word “darkness” caught my attention. And at that point I was off on what of my fellow writers called a “rant.”

Like most news junkies who take their news with a third pot of coffee, I’m disturbed by the campaign rhetoric leading up to November’s General Election. So it is fair to say that coming to the writing exercise, I was already in a dark place. But with the clock ticking, and without so much as a transition or segue, I leapt from politics to ranting about Saturday’s Park-to-Park walk – a fundraiser for local residents undergoing treatment for Cancer.

The weather on September 17 was idyllic with just the odd Aspen leaf singed with gold. Although the towns were chock-a-block with activities designed to entertain and educate, I found it depressing that only twenty walkers showed up at the starting gate! How sad is that! Surely everyone has a friend, neighbor, or relative who has undergone treatment for cancer. Some have survived; others have died. Shouldn’t the walk be a memorial of sorts?

My concluding sentence read, “Where were the people who were too busy to remember?”

After we read, we give feedback. I was first to admit that my piece was disjointed. And, yes, I was on a rant.

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“All together now…” The fans of Dakota Blonde wave in unison at KLZR’s High Peaks Music Festival

But my fellow writers asked the following questions: One asked,  “What does the darkness look like? Why is it so dark?” Another writer stressed the importance of striving for a constant state of meditation, and the need to balance the extremes at either end. Finally, in terms of writing for an audience, both women agreed on the need to create a tension between the light and dark.

What would I do without these writing friends? Their comments centered me.

 

Why did I choose to focus on ‘darkness’ as opposed to the intent of W.S. Merwin’s poem and his metaphor of a nightingale’s song in the dark? Undertaking a re-think, I’ve concluded that although my despair with the cancer walk’s low rate of participation was real, my underlying angst was comparing the local Cancer walk to my walking The Camino three years ago this October.

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Haunted by the low turnout on the Cancer walk, I felt isolated… alone. In contrast, climbing the Pyrenees and walking across Spain, I was joined by strangers. I didn’t know their language, religion, politics, or socio-economic status, but we were one regardless of our reason for walking. On the Cancer walk, I missed the ‘oneness’: that bond… that web of interconnectedness which allows ‘the small stuff’ to fall by the wayside. Or… at the very least be counter-weighed by the Nightingale’s song.

Or in my case, listening to the Second Street Owls sing their song should draw me into the web of connectedness.

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About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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6 Responses to A Little Night Music

  1. Bar Scott says:

    Dear Doris, you’re a love for thinking of us this way. Thank you. Just read the blog as I head into whole foods. So glad nicole and I could respond in such a way as to lift your spirits. Hopefully others will start their own writing group!!

    How’s your knee today?

    Xo Bar

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • timeout2 says:

      Thank you, Bar. I know a critical/judgmental comment when I hear one. Your comments never prick and are always insightful. My WD-40 knee is great. Tomorrow Alex removes a molar at 3:30 p.m. in Penrose, and I’m down for the community dinner at 5:30 in Westcliffe. Should be interesting.

  2. Lynn says:

    Sorry we didn’t make it, we walked last year. We were in Winfield, Ks for a music festival. Cheer up! Life is good(I said that for years before it was commercialized!)

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Lynn, It has been too long. When you are in town, just drop in. If we have leftovers, we’ll eat them. If I don’t, we’ll grab a bite in town. Or… we could just have a cup of tea, or we could have a real drink. Mark and I drank too much over the summer. Our new rule is we can only drink if we are socially engaged. Or… for medicinal purposes. The Jameson’s that I drank last evening was for a bad tooth. I may need some tonight, but tomorrow the tooth goes and I’ll be back to drinking coffee and lying awake at 3:00 a.m. I could not have finished The Camino with out the “restorative glass of wine.”

  3. 2000detours says:

    Aren’t we all searching for oneness? I like to think that while we all have our own darkness, those troubles we suffer behind closed doors, we find our oneness in stepping into the light. I met with a client this morning and ended the discussion with her asking about my husband and me asking about hers. Like bread from the offering, I shared tidbits of living with my husband’s ALS and she shared pieces of living with her husband’s cancer. The sharing helps.

    • timeout2 says:

      2000detours, I love the title of your blog. Yes, Life is one big detour. “Like bread from the offering” is powerful. As you wrote, “Sharing helps.” Thank you.

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