For the next few weeks, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s weeklong marathon of writing workshops, Write Around the World. This is one way we are celebrating the AWA-certified workshop leaders & writers who joined together to raise money in support of AWA. Thank you to those who shared their voices in each workshop and especially to those who have offered their words to be shared in this space. If you’re inspired by our work and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!
Writing from Laurie Barons’s Writing Life Workshops in Holland, Michigan
Silenced, marginalized, forgotten, the voice that cares. The heart that comforts. The one that cares more about self than others – exiled.
Stripped of the power to save the world, talked over, pushed aside, sitting in ambiguity – in limbo, waiting to be heard. The only hope – to be heard. To be listened to before it is too late. Before all care and comforting are gone. Before there is nothing left to be saved.
Only then, only when she is no longer silenced, only when she is appreciated, respected and heard. When she is allowed to truly show herself, to be herself, without degradation, harassment – assault. Only when he sees his ignorance, his folly. When he finally falls to his knees and says, “You are worthy. Valuable. And I respect you and need you”. Only then can they, together, reconstitute the world.
MY HEART IS MOVED
WELCOME TO “THE HOOD”
“Yikes, I think I’ve been shot,” I screamed.
It had to have been a cannon! My ears hurt from the blast. I felt the earth move!
My heart pounded. No subtle ba bum, ba bum, ba bum rhythm. No, a huge painful audible KA BAM! KA BAM! KA BAM! pulsing visibly through my tank top.
I broke out in a sweat.
“What the Hell was that?” My husband yelled from the basement, just as a second round of fire cracked through the heat of an unseasonably warm and unsettlingly windy late April afternoon.
“Just breathe,” I told myself, trying to settle the herd of runaway horses galloping through my chest into a more ambling pastoral walk.
I started to calm. Then, something sizzled. Something smelled. HOT!
The few neighbors home in our relatively new development started tentatively wandering out into the street, wide eyed, seeking the source of our mutual fear.
Another Crack! Something splintered, took out a few trees and blocked the road.
We were stranded, in – or out – of “The Hood” as we nick-named our small community. At least the brief torrential rain and the powerful wind blasts had passed. Within half an hour, the local power company showed up to assess the situation – a combination of storm damage and the antics of a squirrel that had chewed his way into the transformer box, blown a power pole and downed the wires. We were assured that the power would be
back on sometime “tomorrow or the next day.”
With that news our newest neighbor, Jerry, went home and returned with a couple bottles of uncorked wine and a stack of red solo cups.
It was suddenly a lot like “the loaves and the fishes.”
Other neighbors left for a few minutes and returned with beer, lawn chairs, chips and dip, some hot dogs, a rusty portable picnic grill, cookies, or whatever they had on hand in the fridge.
About a dozen of us set up chairs in a tight circle around the grill and celebrated what came to be known as “The First Annual Summer Picnic.” What better way to spend a late afternoon than meeting new neighbors and speculating on when the power would return?
Some ten or so years have passed, and only a few from that small group of new residents remain here in “The Hood.” Some have moved on to full time retirement homes in warm and sunny places, and a few on to the great unknown beyond. But every new arrival since has been welcomed with that same sense of community.
That little development has grown into a lovely neighborhood of over 50 homes full of residents sharing an enthusiastic and active spirit.
That little “First Annual Summer Picnic” has grown into an annual event that welcomes old and new neighbors with a feast organized by, you may have guessed, Jerry.
Turned out that Jerry was a retired chef – Italian by birth, outgoing nature, and his love of food. Over the years, the hero and instigator of that first little event cooked and served the main course – his personal specialties – always slow cooked ribs and juicy chicken, a giant pot of “to die for” spaghetti sauce, enormous meatballs, and pasta. Everyone else brought their favorite sides, salads and desserts to round out the feast. We’ve hired a Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band and danced in the streets.
This past summer, well over 125 neighbors (past and present) gathered to celebrate the annual event.
This year the event was just a bit different. Local celebrity Ms. Piggy arrived in her pristine old black Cadillac hearse with barbecue flames painted along each side and a pudgy little pig waving from the tailgate over the words “Porky’s Last Ride.” She served up a mighty fine pig roast, to accompany the by now famous sides, salads and desserts supplied by the neighbors.
We said our sad, and fond, good-byes to “Chef Jerry” and his lovely wife Rusty. It was time for them to move away – closer to their children and grandchildren. Closer to family support – as age takes its toll and leaves a body aching, limping, and needing a bit more care.
We will continue to celebrate their legacy – an active and involved neighborhood that looks out for each other, knows each other, enjoys spending time together, and is committed to being there for each other.
And we are sure that Jerry and Rusty will be back for next summer’s celebration – they have an open invitation to check in at any of a number of guest bedrooms in “The Hood.”
With No Extraordinary Power
I notice them more keenly now. The young man shepherding a refugee family through the grocery store, the therapist whose job counseling incarcerated women doesn’t include taking them shopping when they are released—but who does it anyway. The neighbors who pick up branches after a storm, wave to everyone on the block, joke with the curmudgeon who grumbles about everything—without regard for anyone’s politics.
I see these things now because I need to. Because the radio, internet news, social media all scream that we are divided, broken, that this country—maybe even this world—is fractured beyond repair. And maybe all those reports are right.
But what I see exists too. Today, right now, there are people making poems and plays and watercolors. They’re making a house or making a friend. They sit on city councils and juries and school boards and around kitchen tables, talking together. They are feeding each other. They are pooling time and money for a neighbor, or a stranger. It has become my practice to take note of these things. And then to go where they are and pick up the thread of a conversation or the handle of a rake. Under all the turmoil, we are together knitting and reknitting the fabric of the world.
“There Is No Pill for This One,” the Doctor Said
—Colette Volkema DeNooyer