Risks and Parachutes

This morning, I did one of the scariest (and dumbest) things that I have ever done: I walked over half a mile next to a road with no sidewalk and a tiny to non-existent shoulder alongside fast-moving traffic. I’m not sure whether having my mother and husband with me makes me feel better or worse. Instead of one idiot, there were three.

On our way back, I began to notice all the car crash debris on the side of the road. I thought of drunk drivers who careen off the road and kill people. While working as a NYS trooper in his 20’s, one of my elementary and high school classmates, Rob Ambrose, was killed when a drunk driver careened into the car he had pulled over and was ticketing. I feel beyond blessed to have escaped unharmed on my morning walk despite my own poor decision.

When I was growing up, my mother used to scare the shit out of me because all my plans were greeted with tales and questions about terrible things that were going to happen to me if I dared wanted to go anywhere outside the house except for my backyard. After we returned, I couldn’t believe that my mom didn’t think it was too risky to chance to go for a 2 mile walk yesterday along that same road.

It must be the purview of parents to terrify their children out of doing the things that they themselves wouldn’t think twice about doing. The more time I spend with my mother, the more I understand why she drives my sister M mildly crazy with her poor decisions. God watches over fools and babies (and other idiots).

Taking risks is an interesting subject. Today’s walk opened my eyes to the difficulties that parents must face in trying to teach their children what’s a “good” risk to take and what’s a “bad” risk. This kind of fear/excitement that I felt while walking on the road is like jumping out of an airplane in a parachute. Some might call the risk of dying unacceptable (like me) while others acknowledge it, take precautions (parachutes), and jump anyway (like friends of mine).

Now I have a new perspective on the title of the book What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. When we choose a path for ourselves, we are moving forward into the unknown, much like jumping out of an airplane. The parachute, aka our professional lives, might take the form of education, training, internships, volunteering, recommendations, and a clean background check. We dye the silk cloths with our interests, best skills, and preferences. With the job application, we leap out of our plane and pull the parachute strings hoping to land safely on a job.

Taking the “bad” risk, making it through, and sitting down to write about it illustrated the book’s meaning in a major way. The mental experience of my breakthrough felt like the pieces of a magnetic puzzle pulling together in perfect form. Afterwards, I have the feeling of having been pulled into a new dimension of understanding. There was the Before, and Now is the After.

In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she recommends twice weekly brisk walks for 20 minutes. I am wondering if a pre-breakfast walk each day might make my morning pages a more interesting place to explore things after I explore the outside. I might consider giving this an experiment next week. That might mean I get up earlier (heaven forbid) or end up writing my morning pages. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I guess I will have to experiment.

But I’m pretty sure that this idea is one of those good risks to take.

Week 12-Final Project-Earthquake

Earthquakes’ train

The tremor briefly ripples desiccated dirt on the road in parallel lines. Stillness follows. A starling whistles once, then again. Wind blows west and rustles the prairie grass. Chiseled men relax. They return to dig and pick apart the hardened earth with steel pickaxes. Dust clouds fills nostrils and mouths. Sweat pours down their chins. Shirts come off. Sun burns.

Look! A flock of starlings abruptly lift westward from telephone wire. Active men squeal to a halt. Rumbles tingle toes. The numbing of feet forge waves of fear straight through toughened bodies. Jelly legs and panicked voices forewarn men and beasts: Earth’s westbound train approaches. Nails and hammer drop with a thud. Weak waves of dirt flutter in reply. Hundreds of feet begin to stampede in differing directions.

The other men bustle past me. Their shoulders shove mine as they scramble to safety up the cactus-peppered landscape. I fall in line onto my hands and knee; I press my right ear to the ground. I eat dirt and listen. The deafening roar of vibrating earth intermixes with churning wheels. Not sure how far, now. Teams of horses whinny and rear. I push up and run out of the way one second before hooves crash down where I crawled. My stomach derails with shockwaves of adrenaline.

I howl in helpless pulses. Faces around me melt with fear. The inevitable groundbreaking eruption fuels fights. Fist knock hats off balding heads. The beat of the breaking earth trembles louder. How many of the men here will survive? Will I? I slap my face. Wake up, Sam! Don’t freeze up now. A straight path opens up on my left between the Mill and the General Store. Time slows. Hobos cling to the stores’ wood siding. Slate shingles fracture at their feet. The last water barrel topples. Water ejects in thick rivulets. I run, full speed ahead.

Injun arrows cross country above my head as I steam onward into their path. Undeterred, I grit my teeth and put my head down as I run. Ululations thunder out the sounds of my heart beating in my ears. Windows rattle from the increase frequencies underfoot. Cracks split panes. Men slip and fall. Animals scatter and trample. At the last possible moment, I flatten myself against the side of the General Store as the Injuns scream on by me. I watch. The sheriff crumples into a pile of flesh. Blood-soaked dirt swells.

My mental switch flips. I turn sharply on my spurs and run against the undulating flow of teeming Injuns. A tomahawk sails past my head and into the wood. Twang! Rifle shots mix with metal slicing into skin. Short screams reverberate between the stores’ walls. Bile and disgust rise in my throat. Sweat overtakes tears that leak from the corner of my eyes. I breathe in hard. And I run. Gasping, I emerge from the human tunnel and keep going. The crescendo of disintegrating buildings fuels an explosion of debris and dust behind me. Its force blasts me onto my face.

The Mill’s foundation cracks opens and yawns. Wham! Earth rips apart with the sounds of two freight trains that crash full throttle. The Mill shatters and disappears. Burning fuel sears my nose and lungs. I taste blood and dirt. My legs shiver. I collapse. I wait for the shaking and the screaming to stop. I close my eyes and come to a standstill.

When I regain awaken, my temples are pounding. I get to my feet, swaying woozily. A familiar shape lies on the ground. I limp over to the other man, kneel, and push him over on his back. I look into the face of my youngest brother, Jesse.

Jesse? Is that you? Wake up, brother. Wake up! Come on. We gotta get out of here!

I shake him somethin’ awful.
He doesn’t move.

Week 11 Assignment-Old Swimming Hole

This assignment ends Week 11 of my BerkleeMusic course called “Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.” The criteria for the assignment are:

  1. Pick a collision from this week
  2. Pick a point of view
  3. Pick your verb tenses
  4. 300-500 words
  5. Include the title in your assignment

Other criteria that we’ve used in our assignments include: varying sentence length and varying sentence type (statement, command, conditional, questions). I included those as well.

Collision Title: Old Swimming Hole -> Temptation -> Jewels in an Unlocked Case
Point of View: First Person
Tenses: Present, Future

Week 11 Assignment

The turquoise waters of the old swimming hole tempt me with their alluring glitter. I thrill from the age-old desire to grab forbidden treasures and make a quick escape. Nervousness floods my mouth. My lips tremble. I lick my sweaty upper lip. I slowly look around. First, left; then, right. I see no one. I hear only rippling waters, tweeting sparrows, and reeds hushing each other as the wind sneaks by. With no alarms raised, I pull off my tank top and toss it on the ground besides me. I forcefully breathe in the emerald marsh air. Ah!, I sigh aloud. I pause to listen, but no one answers.

I go over the plan again in my mind: I will lunge my left leg backwards, ready both fists by my side, bounce three times, and take off. I will race down the weathered diving plank as if the police were in pursuit. My imaginary pursuers will reach for me too late as I spring off the edge of the board and into topaz waters. The plank’s thrumming will drown out the coppers’ anguished cries. The anticipation dries my mouth with the taste of mineral salts. Will this work? A red-tailed hawk scolds me: Stop wasting time. Silver fear infuses my nostrils. I rub my shoulders hard to psyche myself up with bravery.

My ears perk up at the pale sounds of far away laughter. Now: do it now, I mentally yell. Adrenaline floods my limbs. I sloppily throw my left leg back, makes fists, and bounce twice. I sprint down the plank at full speed. At the last moment, I launch. As I descend from the high arc, I hold my knees tightly and close my eyes. I slam through the pearl surface. Water roars into my ear canals and penetrates my mouth. I open up completely, kick my legs, and spin until dizzy. I come up with arms outstretched, gasping for air. Approaching laughter is my final warning. If I don’t get out now, I’ll be seen.

I scrabble haltingly out of the pool of liquid jewels. Each falling droplet leaves a semiprecious trail of temporary clues. I roughly yank my tank top back over my head and down onto my torso. I smell hot August sun drying the last aquamarine memories from my skin. Alum, the fool’s gold of the swimming hole, tarts my tongue. I tiptoe into the tourmaline thicket down a rarely used footpath. I periodically turn back to look for the swimming hole. When I no longer see it, I breathe a sigh of relief. I keep walking. I do not stop or look back. My sandals crunch sticks pleasingly. I whistle victory at my easy escape.

Week 11-Day 5-Old Swimming Hole

Old Swimming Hole -> Temptation -> Diamonds in an Unlocked Jewelry Case
The water sparkles invitingly. You reach out tentatively to touch the icy reflection. A million bright lights cut out in angles on the horizon. You squint and blink, pain cutting your eyeballs ever so lightly. Noises! Behind you! You swivel as a thief in rubber-soled shoes, freezing in place. Your eyes scan the scenery for any movement. Only the sound of rippling water greets you. Slowly you reposition yourself and slip your toes in. Pause. No alarms. You put both feet in. Water shimmers around your ankles. No other customers around to dive in. No lifeguard to protect the old swimming hole from intruders. You dive in, the thrill of the chase buoys and propels you. You’re in now. The point of no return. You’re in deep. You rise up for air, gasping. No one’s around to hear you rooting around the place. Yes! You backflip under water. You breaststroke quickly to shore. The place is all yours! No finger prints. You can turn over each piece in the case. Shells, rocks, seaweed, an old boot. It feels good to be bad! No one can catch you now. You fill your heart full of these shiny memories that glitter. Temptation. Fascination. Admiration. You scrabbled out of the pond of liquid jewels, each one dropping off you in a million tiny pieces. You dry off. Water on your skin disappears. Watery fool’s gold. You escape the shop without being seen. No video surveillance to catch your raid. Just dark foot-shaped shadows on the dirt.

Unlocked diamonds in a jewelry case are an old swimming hole 
The pool of glitter temps you. You squint, looking from the corner of your eye. Looking at the shimmer head on? Daggers of pain hit your cornea. Laugher peals out of the swimming hole, temping you to take a dip in its forbidden treasure. Other kids splash and play. They flaunt their watery wealth on their necks. Heads emerge from the black velvety depths. Sun radiates their pearly necks laced with water droplets. The peer pressure bears down on you. You join your partners in crime, digging into the fresh-water case. Joy. Freedom. No parents are around. No lifeguards. Just you, the others, and your wet playground. Water games enrich your day. The unrecorded activities whet your confidence that you will all pull  off the swimming hole heist. Your swimming suit pockets fill with abundance, seep out, then refill. Each fill brings a bigger cache of memories. Adult footsteps crack on sticks. Oh, no. You scramble unevenly to escape your summery den. Hurry! You wave to the others.  Arms and legs brush off the proof of your crime. Towels soak up the blame. Squeals reveal your location. Caught! Your parents see you quickly trying to hide your tracks. Stop! Your father stares. Your mother crosses arms. Feet tap impatience. Come! You hang your head in shame. I’m guilty! Guilty as charged! You lift your head defiantly. Your ear is turned. Ouch! You are dragged away. Your escaped partners watch  from behind bushes as you are dragged away to your punishment: No dinner!

Week 11-Day 4-Western Movie

In this penultimate week to my BerkleeMusic course called, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice’, we are continuing our work with metaphor. We are given an object (Western Movie); we are charged with picking a linking quality (Adventurous) and a comparison object (Team of Arctic Explorers). We are asked to write for 10 minutes about our topic (Western Movie) but using words from our other object (Team of Arctic Explorers) to describe it. Finally, we are asked to flip it around and describe the comparison object (Team of  Arctic Explorers) with words that you might use to describe the given object (Western Movie).

My challenge has been that I slip confusingly back and forth from one to the other. Or I find the given object (Western Movie) uninspiring.  I read some about Western and Western Movie history, pondered on the qualities associated with Western Movies, and chose one.  It bothers me that they seem to sound similar. I was hoping for something more interesting. Oh, well.  Here’s another link in the chain to building better writing skills!

Western Movie -> Adventurous -> Team of Arctic Explorers
The group decided on their basecamp: Ashtonville, Texas. Two mountain ranges of deserted storefronts formed a central, barren corridor. The harsh landscape warned them from further entry. Winds whistled around solitary cacti in cloud bursts, burn-freezing the inside of the cowboys’ ears with icy fury. The men shouted to each other, signaling with their gloved hands where to drive the the stakes of their spurs. The men took out their pickaxes and started to chip away at the desert sands. They sweated inside their Texas uniforms, bandana’s wrapped around their faces to keep out the dust flying into their skin.  With their backs straining under a dark, ominous sky, the cowboys raised their tents. Standing in a single line, the men passed their tent supplies from one to the next.  When their covered wagon was unpacked, the men retreated to their canvas cave in the middle of their Nowheresville. Mark struggled to zip up the door. The others nailed down the edge of the canvas sides that met the dirt where it was not already held down by their supplies. The men sat around in a circle on their sleeping bags, each one silently unwrapping his protective uniform off his wiry, Texan frame. A small leather waterbag was passed around; each man took the smallest sip possible. A coyote howled. Dust balls hit the side of the tent. The men listened.

Team of Arctic Explorers is a Western movie
The men hustled their animals, their tent, and their supplies down the narrow trail between the two Arctic mountain ranges. The band of five brothers roped themselves together in a straight line. The wilderness called around them. Howls. Cries. A scream cut off. The brothers stopped, swore loyalty to one another, and continued on. The eldest, John, led the way. Nothing would stop them. The sheriff promised the research team a reward: bring home the thief. Get paid. Watch as they hang ’em high! Riches. Feeding their families. Telegrams by covered wagons led by Huskies back East. Warm thoughts of money spurred them on. Gold coin. A hot bath. A hot meal, better than these survival granola-flax-peanut butter snack bars. Roar! A bear stood in their way. On the other side, a frozen lake with an opening. The men huddled under their hats and broke away with shots in the air. Pumped! Full of internal fire, hunger, and need, the men circled around the bear. ROAR! The white bear got down on all fours, ready to pounce. From all directions, the men fired down on the white bear. Red covered white in drips and streaks. Hearts raced. John stepped slowly toward the bear, poking it with the end of his rifle. Dead. They removed their hats, held them over their hearts, and thanked God for their good fortune. The men heaved the bear onto the portable cot, and dragged it back to their basecamp. Yes!

Week 11 Day 3-Cobwebs


Today’s writing asked us to take the word cobweb, pick a linking quality, find another thing that shared that quality, and then write for 10 minutes about cobwebs in words that illuminate the linking quality with nouns, adjectives, and verbs from the other shared item. Whew! That’s a confusing summary. Here’s what I did — this will make it clearer. Sort of. Sometimes I start writing things that sound better if I was writing in the other direction. That’s the thing I’m learning this week. I can tell – I’m gonna need a looooooooooot of practice.

Cobwebs -> Capture -> Armies
The threads of the cobwebs spread out from one corner of the doorway. In camouflaged, semi-invisible lines, cobwebs hide their numbers from their enemy  flies. They shimmer in the light of the desert day, blending in harmoniously with the oases that tease from a distance. The approaching fly troops mark a straight line, hoping to penetrate the interior by sheer force and numbers. The flies underestimate the threads that belie the power in their ultimate weapon of choice. The stickiness binds the flies legs and abdomens like rope lines suddenly pulled to fell the enemies’ legs. The troops subdue the body of the flies after a few minutes of struggle. The cobweb’s commanding officer drops a line down to where the enemy is being held. He wants to see for himself that the enemy is captured.  The black widow spider pulls out his hands, hold his enemy in his hands, and then pierces the fly with the knife on his machine gun and empties his poison into the fly.  A few seconds later, still and stiff as a wooden plank, the spider binds up the fly, carries him to up to the corner, and leaves him for the troops to snack on. The spider returns to his desk and waits for the call from his troops to parachute in for the final kill once again.

Armies are cobwebs
The troops last assignment: fan out in straight lines to hide their numbers; go from corner to corner and stick together so that no enemy can break through the lines; hold your positions and do not move unless ordered to do so. The men dutifully walked single file until they hit a wall. They turned direction approximately 20 degrees to the right and kept on walking. Meanwhile, the commanding officer sent a second division up towards the top of the hill. One by one, they parachuted on silk threads down until they reached the other division at a second spot along the wooden wall, through which they could not go.  Meeting up, the troops walked inwards, two by two for a brief time, then walked or flew in the opposite direction, until they met back at base camp. All through the night, they worked tirelessly to build their camp. Animals called to each other eerily. The hair on the arms and legs of the troops stood up but they kept going. Towards dawn, their camp complete, the men slept. One kept watch over their camp, on the lookout for any invaders. Finally! An alarm rang out. The men looked up — space invaders! Flies darkened the skies. Legs trembled and hearts raced. How can we tame the incoming beast? Working together the men folded in on the alien more strongly when there was struggle. The men wrapped around the alien and delivered the stunning blow to the gut. All was quiet. A breeze blew. Men wafted gently and then broke away from the camp. The site of the beast overcome sickened them. Some men regrouped, going over their plan. The commander arrived. He surveyed their capture. He pierced its armor and ate quietly, under the hungry eyes of his submission troops.

Week 11-Reversing Direction through Linking Qualities

Hello! Last week? Well, last week I got thrown off by needing to take two of my three cats to the vet two times each. I only got to one daily writing and then the weekly assignment.

Week 11 is more of the same. We are given an object and asked to think of a linking quality and another object that links the two. We are to write about Object A using terms from Object B and then reverse the order and write again; 10 minutes timed writing each direction.  This is hard work. The class has one more week and I can see this work continuing afterwards.

Day 2 – Hatred

Hatred -> Filter -> Camera Lens
The camera lens of your anger filters the way you see the world. Innocent behaviors cast with a red overtone menace at you with intensity. The hot breath of conversation fogs up your ability to focus; you cannot see clearly through the haze of your hatred. People glare at you across the crowded room, eyes bearing down at you through the lens. You try to make adjustments. You pull back from the viewfinder, shake your head, close your eyes, furrow your brow, and bring the eye back to the viewer. You try to switch your mind into manual instead of the automatic setting of your amygdala, which rises in your chest the way the rising heat of sun causes an intense ray to focus onto a dry leaf, setting it on fire. Your emotions have dried up, burnt into the crisp of hatred focused on what little was left of your heart. You take lessons, you meditate. You ask random strangers to pose for you in desperate attempts to shake off the screaming-red colored filter of anger. The wind carries away what’s left of you. You replace the lens. Trying to clean it, you scratch the surface. You wince in pain at the thought of the cost of getting a new lens. You visit the store, try on various  models, and pick one that seems clear. Yet when you leave and try to take a new picture of the world around you, the red remains. Ants look pissed off carrying their crumbs to the hill. People walk by, gesticulating heatedly into their handsets. You catch them from the side; a permanent mark of anger stains their faces. Blue jays scream at each other. Grilled cheese becomes burnt cheese. You throw it out. You pang with hunger. Someone breezes by and fans your anger flames into a roaring fire, into a blaze strong enough to burn down ten thousand acres of ancient forest in a few hours’ time. You capture it, frame by frame, a vast swarth of destruction across the vista of your life. It e

Camera lens is hatred
The camera lens seethes and projects its red-hot anger onto the subjects as they mingle over white wine spritzers at the bar. Watching the people intensely, waiting for an argument to break out, so that it can catch its subjects in the act of duking it out, fists battering each others’ faces, like a scene out of a movie about white trash bar fights. The camera lens pauses, lingers in anger, over its lack of control. Under someone else’s command, the camera lens focuses on plants, bugs, animals with the smell of burnt tires on pavement. It refuses to cooperate, staying out of focus. The photographer growls in frustration at the lens, blaming old age and rusty interchanging parts as the cause of fuzzy photos, streaking colors across keyboards and cats running across the room. The camera lens celebrates its victory over the dictator photographer who insists on shooting the happy moments in people’s lives. How rude. The one wish in the camera lens’ eye is to see others crush in submission to its mean ways. Children will cry and run away in fear. Women will weep. Men will comfort their women, wrap a protective arm around the women’s shoulders, and attempt to lead them away from the funeral crematorium. The lens aches to capture the moments of people at their miserable worst: the owner sobbing over having to euthanize her pet; the dizzying loss of the athlete to another by mere milliseconds; the public pain of a fifteen year-hold high school student by her bullies. The lens imagines frights and rises in proud anger at its imagined magnificence. The photographer gingerly handles the lens, as if it were on fire, and puts it away into the cold, dark bag, where it sits and waits, biding its time, for the next moment when light and air will shine on the lens and fan the flames of its hatred for humanity, for life. Crisp memories of burning fingertips fill the dreams of the camera lens. The exhilaration of a consuming hating desire.

Week 10 Assignment – Pain is a Teacher

Pain is the teacher who carefully lays out the lesson plan to fit every day of our lives. Her tiny cryptic scrawls cover the blackboard in white. As we file into our seats, the smell of chalks fills our nostrils and covers our tongues, and seeps into our skin.

Pain pop-quizzes us Monday mornings when we are slack with sleep at our desks. Do we really have to do this now? Our Trapper Keepers and textbooks slap closed and land on the floor with a satisfying thud.

Pain surprises us with last-minute room changes posted on our classroom door, two hours after the class ended. There is no room 5-B in our two-story building. As we sit in study hall, we sweat and ring our hands. Our stomachs clench and make us dizzy with anticipation. Did we fail?

Pain tests our critical thinking skills. Turn the wrong way and pain stops us with a smack of the ruler on our backsides, bringing our attention back to the beginning of the lesson plan. Extra credit assignments stack high and sway menacingly over us. Panic rips our guts apart. How will get through this? We pass notes when the teacher isn’t looking. The test paper answers change when we aren’t looking.

After high school, birthdays become our only progress chart. Blind to the future, we grope around in the dark, searching for the light switch but sticking our fingers in the sockets and getting shocked. Our hands stick to the plate from an ungrounded outlet. We pull away, only to be drawn back into the electrical center. Zap! Zot! Muscles tense hard. We pull away hard and try again. Nothing deters us. Into the sockets our fingers go. The intensity holds us hostage and we reflexively shout. Our senses are in sharpest focus. Pain courses through our blood and electrifies us into action. Our hearts or legs get broken.

After the power has been shut off, ee close our eyes hard and pretend our lesson isn’t there. Our discipline disintegrates. We pull out hair in frustration at our lack of learning. Don’t you wish it would end and we could get some peace? We cry: No fair! Our only answer is the squeak of a rusted door that is moved slowly back and forth by the wind.

Week 10-Reversing Metaphor Direction

Hello! This is Week 10 of my Berkleemusic.com class, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.’

Like last week, we are working with developing our ability to create interesting metaphors.  Unlike last week, we are writing twice for 10 minutes each from two pieces of information, an object and an essential quality about that object.  We pick the comparison object.  Then we swap the order and write about it for another 10 minutes. I’ll stop explaining – Read below. You’ll get it.

Day 2

Teacher–>Linking Quality: instructs –> Target Idea: –>_Pain_______.

Pain: pain, ache, throb, dull roar, stab, hurt, cry, stomach, heart, head, foot, hand, torture, surgery, accident, fall, crash, smash, broken, limbs, hang, tears, beg, mercy, heartless, cruel, cruelty, Chinese water torture, repetition, infliction, shame, humiliation, rejection, desire, sob, hysterics, desperate, desperation, taboo, victim, perpetrator, villain, criminal, crimes, uncompassionate, bound, gagged, masked, scream, howl, whimper, submission, dominance, S&M

A teacher is pain to her student victims, bound helplessly to their seats. We dread yet another repetitive math lesson, the Chinese water torture of numbers. Algebraic equations twist their ugly point into our stomachs. Geometry proofs its whip against our brains. Trigonometry gags us, our minds reeling, gasping, dreaming of escape. Calculus heartlessly inflicts its symbols into our hands that are cramped, exhausted, and sobbing for mercy. Our teacher oversees the exercises in cruelty over four years’ time, twisting the lessons to suit her own purposes: that we learn enough to pass the PSATs. Our tears go unwiped and our prayers unheard. We cower in unconditional submission to the educational pecking order. When free of our parents, we are indentured in servitude to our teacher’s villainous ways. We scurry from class to class, avoiding our teacher’s punishing eyes. Our teacher hang us in humiliation on High School Hill. We are the example, the strange fruit. We whimper in humiliation under the ruler. Our crimes posted in hallways, declaring our guilt. We have been sentenced to twelve years hard labor. The teacher thrusts the unwanted lessons on us, pinning us down in effigy until we learn the point of it all. The dull roar of submission dies away

Pain –>Linking Quality: instructs –> Target Idea: –>_Teacher_______.

Teacher: Instruct, learn, lesson, lesson plan, students, school, schoolroom, classroom, tutor, repetition, test, quiz, pop quiz, grades, grading, progress chart, EIP, guides, children, discipline, enlighten, inspire, critical thinking, skills, life, relationship

Pain is a teacher, laying out its careful lesson plan. Pain points out our flaws, over and over again, until we learn the lesson. Our growth indicates whether we have passed a test. Pain quizzes us on how well we have learned our lessons, providing us with pop quizzes on a frequent basis. We have no time to study. Pain does not follow a lesson plan, or come to the same place at the same time every day. Pain tests our critical thinking skills. Failure is torture. We are sick with anticipation that we have failed. Turn the wrong way and pain stops us, bringing us back to the beginning. We are students in the classroom of life. Pain disciplines us frequently and we are humbled by its power. Failed relationships guide us towards interpersonal growth. Pain enlightens us on the point of punishment, by bringing our eyes into focus on what hurts us the most. Birthdays are our only progress chart. Blind to the future, we grope around in the dark, searching for the light switch but sticking our fingers in the sockets and getting shocked. Our hands stick to the plate from an ungrounded outlet. We pull away, only to be drawn back into the electrical center. Zap! Zot! Muscles tense hard. With all our might, we pull away and try again. Nothing deters us. Into the sockets our fingers go. The intensity holds us hostage and we scream in agony. Our senses are in sharpest focus now, when the pain courses through our blood, electrifying us into action. We leave relationships or jobs. The pain of grade we receive galvanizes us to try again, to improve. Sometimes, our hearts or legs are broken. We close our eyes, drowning out the buzz of teaching pain that circles us like a flock of vultures. We disintegrate from discipline. We pull out hair in frustration at our lack of learning. We cry at life. No fair.

Week 9 Assignment

I hope you enjoy my assignment submission for the end of Week 9 of the Berkleemusic.com course, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.’ This class, especially in this week, has been a boon to my writing in conjunction with a technical editing course. I hope you enjoy this piece.

Week 9 Assignment Requirements

  • Choose one of your collisions: Summer -> Carefree -> Children
  • Choose your own point of view: First person narrative (I, we)
  • Choose your own tense movement:  Present, Future
  • Expand in into 300–500 words and focus with your senses.

Summer  -> Carefree -> Children

Children: kids, young, run, jump, play, potential, growth, education, love, chubby cheeks, sweet, fingers, learning, alphabet, reading, crayons, daycare, happy, play games, hopscotch, jump rope, dodge ball, horseback riding, pool, beach, volleyball, softball, baseball, naps, day camp, campers

Summer jumps into the season, giggling and laughing. Passing sun showers hopscotch over our heads. Summer stamps her hot feet through spring’s last puddles. Water fountains splash us playfully. Rainbows draw their colors on the paper-blue sky. Sunrays tag our faces with rosy love. The summer solstice stretches her potential length to maximum. The last days of school peel off in white flakes. A warm breeze rouses us from our homework chains. Freedom becomes our new fresh skin.

Excited Atlantic waves bounce the ferry S.S. Happy Campers on its knees. We wear orange lifejackets, lean over the ships’ bow, and heave in the salty sea air. After we arrive, we burst down the pier. Shoulder to shoulder as we run, we muscle each other out of the way, yelling and stomping our feet. Yes! I win! Fist pumps greet groans in friendly camaraderie. Next stop? Mad Martha’s Ice Cream! We eat our vanilla sugar cones and dig our feet into burning sand. Beach balls hop back and forth over nets. Sand castles rise. Moats overflow. Turrets tumble into the sea. We dig deep, and find joy under pink seashells. For lunch, we unzip sandwich bags with sandy fingers. Coca Cola pops open in wide smiles. Oreo cookies loosely crumble out of our mouths onto damp bathing suits. We nap on cotton towels under a blue umbrella. Comforting sea breezes caress us while we sleep. Splash! Water on our faces! We noisily chase after seagulls with our hands in the air.

Sunset sneaks up on us. Tag, we’re it!  Fluorescent Crayola colors wrap the sky in brief swathes. Dark hues cool our sandy party. What will we play tomorrow? Will we rent three-speed bicycles in Vineyard Haven and meander down-island to Oak Bluffs? Before bedtime tonight, we will imagine putting on plays about our indigenous island ancestors; victory will be ours. Our parents will tell us to go to sleep, but we will read under bed sheets with flashlights until late. Crickets will sing us to sleep. Peepers will peep. We will dream.

Week 9-Day 4-Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream -> Roars -> Lion

Lion: pride, hunter, golden, fur, menacing, slinky, slink, big cat, big game, cat, teeth, fangs, sharp, white, antelope, zebra, prey, shouting, stalk, kill, carnivore, reign, king, steppes, grasslands

The mountain stream tilts back its head and roars out its animalistic call to the wild. Trees shake in terror at the stream’s growling burbles. Slinking its way menacingly over cowed stones, the mountain stream prides itself on its white fanged foam. Waves hunt unsuspecting chipmunks, birds, and rabbits. The stream’s reign flows from time immemorial and into the back of the mountainside, feasting on granite prey.


Mountain Stream -> Trickles -> Hourglass sand

Hourglass sand: hourglass, sand, white, trickle, countdown, finite, infinity, test, contest, falls, falling, desk, pen, timer, timed, timing, life, regret, triste, wistful

The remaining granules of a once-burbling mountain stream trickle slowly through a narrow opening in its path. One droplet at a time, the stream’s wistfully watches its essence pass out of time. Regret and sadness tinge its blue into grey. The mountain stream cries sand. It mourns. Only the quiet hills attend its funeral.

Week 8 Assignment

This week’s assignment parameters:

  1. Choose one of our writings from this week and expand it to 200-400 words;
  2. Write from second person narrative using both present and future tense; and
  3. Use sense-bound language
Earlier this week, my teacher commented that my writing from Day 3, A needle is a thunderstorm, was written backwards. I wrote about a thunderstorm using needle terminology when I should have been writing about needles using thunderstorm terminology. Even with a list of nouns, adjectives, and verbs that I free-associated from the word ‘thunderstorm’, I could not get it right. I tried four different times to start, only to realize that I kept doing the same thing — writing about thunderstorms, not needles. It wasn’t until I hit on the idea of a sewing needle, vs. a medical/injectable/sharps type of needle, that I got it to work. I think. Here it is:

A (sewing) needle is a thunderstorm

            As you sit at the antique Singer table, your sewing needle pelts the fine cotton hem with lightning-fast jagged dashes of bright white thread. The sharp tube focuses a downpour of electric, metallic artistry in your hands. You whip out the skirt with a streak that lets out a thunderous clap. Overcast skies darken your vision and you squint as you blink hard, trying to focus. Your lashes are heavy and wet; your gusts of sewing ruined your efforts at planting the needle just right. Your grandmother will soak you in your next Saturday afternoon lesson if you don’t dry out the mess left by your hail of sharps.

Side by side on her sprawling porch you will both sit, a duo of clothing storms vaccinating your clothes with color and style to combat their fashionable finish. You will inject new life into your tired blue jeans by rejuvenating them with swells of shiny pink thread. You think of your grandmother, who will want to puncture her 20-year-old housedress within runoffs of pastels.

Much later, your weekly follow-up visits will turn into one-sided, annual visits where needles and cloth are replaced by stems and flowers that you leave in solace at her grave. You will reflect on these painful lessons, cry, and be glad that she inoculated you against the jab of saying good-bye.

Week 8-Day 4-Friendship nourishes…

With feedback from teacher on yesterday’s assignment, it seems I wrote things backwards. Good, but backwards. I should have been writing about ‘needle’ in the key of ‘finger’ and ‘thunderstorm’ but it seems like I was using ‘needle’ when choosing the nouns/verbs/adjectives. I think I got it right this time.

Our given object was ‘friendship’; the linking quality assigned was ‘nourishes’. I chose ‘poetry’ and ‘meditation’ as my two second objects for comparison. I tried to write about friendship using words about ‘poetry’ and ‘meditation’ in nourishing terms. Here I included the words I used when thinking about ‘poetry’ and ‘meditation’ so you can see the way my brain works.


Poetry -> inspires, readings, emotional, expressing, Khalil Gibran, children, life, Shelley, homosexuality, sex, love, heat, timeless, humanity, human condition, politics, nature, Mary Oliver, the Cape, Robert Frost, New Hampshire.

Poetry feeds friendship’s awe-inspired reverence of deer walking through Walden woods. Inspired laughter echoes timeless tales of our girlhood that would make Mary Oliver proud.


Meditation-> Calms, breathing, deep, rhythms, quiet, alone, mantra, peace, union, universe, Buddha, temples, walking, focus, water, mind, clear, clarity

Friendship’s mantra focuses on nourishing companionship. The regular back and forth rhythm of reciprocity breathes love and life into the human soul. Peaceful unions of alone togetherness shine light on the universe’s interdependence in itself. Buddha’s quiet nature under the Bodhi tree models the mind-like-water philosophy of relationships. 

Week 8-Day 3-A needle is….

Today is a repeat of yesterday’s exercise: we were given the object needle to start.  However, the linking quality we were given is injects, instead of penetrates. We were asked to come up with something that also has that quality.

At first, I was not happy. Needle, again? Boring! Then I went online and typed what things inject – that was not helpful, as you can imagine. Isn’t inject very similar to penetrate?

And then, it happened. I thought of something. No, I thought of two things! The moral of the story is don’t decide ahead of time what will and won’t work. Make yourself try it.  Below are the writing prompts, my selections, and writings.


Prompt: Needle

What quality does my idea have?

Linking quality: It injects.

What else has that quality? What else injects?

Now you find two target ideas: things that inject. Your result will be an expressed identity: aneedle is a _________.

  1. Needle–>Linking Quality: Injects –> Target Idea: –>_____finger_________.
  2. Needle–>Linking Quality: Injects –> Target Idea: –>_____thunderstorm______.

A needle is a finger
A needle is a finger stabbing you in the chest and poking you hard enough to leave a bruise. With each jab, cutting words sting your heart. Jeff! Chris! Steven! Phil! The names of your buddies pierce your mind in horror. Your trust withdrawn faster than the blood can leave your face.

A needle is a thunderstorm
A needle is one of millions of spears racing down from thick clouds and forcing themselves into the ground. Dirt injected with swells of rain drives mud slicks down the street’s gutter. Daffodils and lilies of the valley greedily imbibe their lifesaving medication. The ground swells and breaks open to let it all in, addicted to its springtime ritual.

Week 8-Day 2-Linking Qualities

I’m paraphrasing instructions from today’s assignment. If you want to write a great metaphor, pick an object. Ask yourself: What qualities does this object have? and What else has that quality? When you’ve answered those questions, you now have two items you can use in writing. The goal is to write a short paragraph using sense-bound details to describe one thing in terms of another.

We were given needle. The linking quality is: penetratesHere’s my writing for today:

A needle is a paw

 A needle is a cat’s paw, which sneaks out straight from the under the Victorian chest and into the high baseboard’s hole. A single claw senses movement and flashes its tip into hapless house mouse flesh. The cat’s instincts are her only poison, rapid-firing five sharps into her furry victim.

A needle is a key

A needle is a key that bypasses high-tech security systems and lays bare forbidden treasure. After carefully laying out all his tools, the thief operates the needle, gently wiggling it up and down slowly as if each motion is part of the undoing of the Schlage lock. One false move by the master and the patient dies in the operating table, a life that can never been reclaimed. The thief terminates, leaving the key in the lock, mission unfulfilled.

Week 7 Assignment-Expressed Identity

This week’s assignment asks us to pick one of our writing pairs from this week, expand it to 200-400 words,  and write it in third-person POV. My teacher liked my treehouse/book pair so I wrote more on that one.

Expressed Identity: Treehouse/book

            David spent his leisurely hours climbing up the boards that were nailed into the side of the oak every six inches until he reached the landing outside the treehouse door. After pulling back the curtain, David steps into ‘The Adventures of the Pirate Brothers,’ a miniseries filled with swashbuckling adventures in arcs of fighting, treasure hunting, and stealing ships from enemy pirates. Fiercer than Blackbeard, the Pirate David dedicates his life to sailing the fictional high seas, his best friends at his side, cannon blasting any girls who dare to kiss them, and going down like a pirate should, with drops of his spilled blood decorating the ocean floor and wide-brimmed hat slowly drowning under rocky waves.

David sat down on the wide oak boards that bound the floor, the walls, and the flat roof cover together in tight, parallel lines. He pressed his blue ballpoint hard into the parchment and slowly carved the names of each club member in a list on the left side of the paper: David, Simon, and Mark. To the right of each name, he drew an underline where they would sign in cherry-juice blood and pledge allegiance to their crew. A blue jay screams outside the window cranny, which opens out towards the well-mowed lawn. A black curtain hangs heavily in the doorway with an unevenly stapled sign marked ‘X’ in thick red marker. The sound of footsteps thuds up the planks and hushed hurried whispers heighten the anticipation.  David froze, trying hard not to breathe or think ahead and guess the ending. Three knocks and a unified round of ‘yo-ho-hos!’ mark the beginning of the next fearsome chapter.

Week 7-Day 5-Noun Collisions

Day 5 – Nouns (+My Nouns) Collisions


Friendship is a white and red polka-dotted bikini, spaghetti straps laced gently around the neck of our years laughing together in front of the television. Frills beckon around soft edges. The bottom half rounds out our one-piece vision of love, laughter, and sandy-toed afternoons.


The pride of tugboats hauls twenty ton steel aircraft carriers across the Caspian Sea in boastful puffs of diesel.


No door zips opens wider, channels flush with untouched twenty dollar bills, than trust’s wallet.


Let’s open the door open to the porch at 8am on Monday morning and let the gentle breezes glide in. Fresh air wafts up one nostril, then the next, calming and comforting one’s servers. Step into vacation’s slippers and walk muffled steps along your oak floors.


Wealth is a sidewalk that wends this way and that, from concrete slabs, to brick, to sleek sealed tar. Sneakers, high heels, and flip flops openly flaunt their income levels, without having to make a sale.


The book of treehouses draws up floor plans for pirate escapades in years past, the backyard marked for gold in a large ‘X’ in the upper right corner, a sign that says ‘No gurlz’ in dark parchment paper, and a bibliography of little boy initials carved in the bark of the tree.


Laughter’s convoy echoes long and far away. People sit up and pay attention to the Doppler of giggles that roar past out of a passing truck’s window. A line of cars follows, interrupted by smiling cheerleaders on paper flower floats, a homecoming party parade.


Money is a flute that sings its lonesome note as it walks through the town center on cobblestone streets. Children mistake it for the song of adulthood and chase after the song far after the dinner bell has rung, leaving them stranded for the wolves that must come.


The song of argument lulls you with its melody. You cannot fight the urge to swing your hips, tape your toes in a toe-step, and fall in line with the other dancers. Swept away, your body responds, your mind shuts down, and you memorize words that are not your own.


Cemetery’s cruise brings you along all the sites, from Major John’s son who died in childbirth before he ever left port, to Rev. Marks who called on every world port to repent. With two feet on just-turned dirt and head down, one can see the world in shades of green and gray.

Week 7 – Day 4-Nouns (+MyNouns) Collisions

More writing class catchup…. this is Day 4’s collisions (yesterday’s) between ten pairs of nouns. The first noun I was given; the second noun I added. Then I came up with descriptive collisions.  I’ll catch up with today tomorrow…

Day 4 – Nouns (+My Nouns) Collisions 


A notebooks is a train of thoughts, chugging along inky tracks, from New York to Peoria, making local stops and getting derailed once or twice.


A circus of rainstorms paraded down onto the town, playing its off-key rhythmic notes onto the stalwartly slate tiles, and mocking inhabitants who dared to peek under their front doors.


Temper’s pinwheel spins wildly around in a gust of colors, angry pinks and oranges clash with sprightly silver, plastic swirling and clicking in a revel-like panic.

regret/broadway play

Regret is a Broadway play where the cast of characters gets stuck on repeat and comes out one last time for a curtain call to an empty theater.

crown/food truck

The crown’s food truck lacked lustre and hid bits of dried out food, scaring her subjects away with thoughts of getting stuck in the gulag with Listeria.


Desires unmet are an out-of-control bicycle whose rider is without her training wheels for the first time, unable to guide or stop her two-wheeled cruiser.


The transmitter of harbors calls out to seamen over high-frequency sailing channels, heard only by whales and radios that capture the memo signals.

knowledge/traffic light

The school system is the traffic light of knowledge; the red shadow of ignorance casts its standstill pall over its audience; the green aura of education enlightens all those it blesses.


The lighthouse’s marksman shines its light with masterful precision onto its targets far below on the snarling seas.

memory/ghost ship

Alzheimer’s is memory’s ghost ship that leaves its passengers traveling without a tour guide, photos, or destination.

Week 7 – Day 3 – Noun/Noun Collisions

Okay, well, today isn’t day 3 — it’s day 5. And I’m behind. Wish I could catch up sooner but I let personal things get in my way. Back to writing….


The cobweb’s enrollment grew in sticky leaps and ghostly bounds, even as its dried, abandoned legs fell off the corners above Wilbur’s pigsty.


Dante conducted Hell’s orchestra of beliefs above the hot, fiery pit of ancient lost souls.


Debt’s embrace held me tight in its greedy arms, obliging me to fulfill my dead obligations with the rare days of my life.


My commitment to ignite my future by taking a risk in the present fired me up to relax and let it go.


A lethal dose of hatred is exactly what the Devil prescribed when Cain’s petty illness caused him to seek out the orders of Dr. Evil.


Charlotte ordered her cobweb to take in six flies a day, three in the morning and three at night. If the sticky fingers refused to obey her every command, Charlotte got her pharmacist’s go-ahead to abandon her web to the West winds.


Mark’s enrollment of belief came before he was old enough to be allowed to pick his own major.


Debt is a financial orchestra of ruin, a classical ballet of form and figure where dancers swing their way into an obligatory tragedy.


Before you are bogged down by your decision’s embrace, adopt a devil-may-care attitude and let go into your next phase of life.


His hatred’s ignition sparked his descent into an earthly perdition.

Week 7-Day 2 Pt 2-Expressed Identity

Hello! I had a brief opportunity to catch up with the writing from yesterday’s class assignment.  These are the same 10 words I posted yesterday, but in different pairings of 5 each. I was lazy, so I simply reordered the suggested words to help me get started in writing.

An accountant is a quilt




Wool, thread

April 15th






 An accountant is the CPA of quilted comfort, knitted wool of numbers settling on you in a reassuring, boring fashion. An accountant covers the blow of exposing your wallet to the deep-reaching fingers of the IRS, with a heavy resignation. April 15th may signal the beginning of troubles yet to come, but you will be kept warm and toasty under the accountant’s decorative spread.

 A football coach is a storm cloud







Graceful loser




A football coach is a storm cloud of thundering cleats in a field of soaked muddy puddles.  The rush of helmet thundering against helmet, angry billows of grunts rise up from the not-yet men, urged onward by gusty yelling.

The violin of kites








Twigs + paper bag



The KT9000 is the violin of kites, swiftly and deftly arcing through the air in graceful movements, even when the March wind crescendos in cacophony against it. Rainbow silk woven against wooden cross instruments sails aloft in perfect pitch of color and visual freedom, a symphony of rhythms that only young boys with their fathers seem to hear while in the stadium of a sunny, blustery afternoon in the park.

The ballet dancer of love letters

Swan Lake


Prima ballerina

Hand-made paper


Pen, ink

Tiptoes, on pointe



Ink drops

The ballet dancer of love letters guides you in leaps and bounds across the page, in large swathes of lusty black ink, which seem to pirouette in slightly darker spots across the page.

Shame’s moon


Crescent, full, half, sliver




Ebb, neap





Your punishment glows upon me, surging my humiliation in sudden tides of pain. No night for me, I am embarrassed under shame’s full moon, revealing my inner darkness to examination against the shore of your loveliness. What remains of me is a mere sliver of my fearful soul.