We had such an amazing Healing Pen Ink class this past Tuesday, March 21. Thanks, everyone, who participated and shared such incredible, heartfelt and deeply personal stories. We're not sure there was a dry eye in the room that night, and it wasn't sadness, but a beautiful feeling of appreciation we recognized collectively for people from both our past and our present. Our children, former husbands, partners, boyfriends and even pets inspired such creative eloquence that touched Courtney and me (and surely everyone at the writer's room table), making us think about the connections in our own lives in profound ways.
As Court always says, "write something personal and you'll make it universal." And this couldn't have been more true. While we look forward to (and love) every Healing Pen get-together, class No.9 just seemed extra special, didn't it?
The theme was "unfinished business," and it called forth those stories from our past, which seem to force us to make inquiries, and assessments from time to time: Opportunities we lost, only thought we did or regret that we may not be around to experience; paths not taken, stories about people we loved and those who loved us more; people we may have hurt, or hurt us; those beautiful, but bittersweet snapshots in time that we recall, made bitter because we know that they can never be experienced again in this lifetime, and made sweet because of the love they gave us at the time and we continue to carry with us. And in this way nothing is truly lost, and all is carried, not as a burden, but more as a richness that makes us who we are. A "village" one writer in class said, "over time, we carry a village of souls with us through this life."
Our "cinematherapy" was this clip from one of our favorite films, Dead Poet's Society. Robin Williams, RIP, we will always love you. And Ethan Hawk, so young and fresh faced in this film, delivered one of the most memorable performances of his career. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQU3EphIpMY
Here's the setup: A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its ancient traditions and high standards. He uses unorthodox methods to reach out to his students, who face enormous pressures from their parents and the school. With Keating's help, students Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) and others learn to break out of their shells, pursue their dreams and seize the day. In this scene, Keating inspires Anderson to compose a poem while standing in front of the class. "Free up your mind, use your imagination, even if it's total gibberish," shouts Keating, spinning the young student around. "Truth like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold," blurts out Anderson. Tell me more about this blanket, says Keating. "You push it, stretch it, but it will never be enough..." Oh, we know about this blanket. Who hasn't experienced this blanket?
As we were running a little bit behind, we never got to show the second clip. This is the better-known "carpe diem" scene from the same film.
It's where Keating forces the boys to look at a class picture of similar young men (albeit from a different century), long since dead, and asks them to acknowledge the ways that they are no different from these men, but also calls the present class to be extraordinary. I guess we selected his scene because looking back at "unfinished business" can often serve to remind us of business right now: to cherish the present moments, releasing anything that may hold us back from experiencing their fullness, and ultimately, to see how extraordinary our life path has always been unfolding to become the one that is uniquely ours.
For those who missed Class No. 9, here is the homework. There's no obligation, of course. This is just for those who want to read their work in class on Tuesday, March 28th. As always, thanks for RSVP'ing. We always appreciate knowing the head count as it helps us be better prepared.
We look forward to seeing all who can make it in class this Tuesday, March 28th from 7 to 9 p.m.
Take Home Writing Assignment
On the heels of unfinished business, write a poem. This is a first for us! Author John Fox said, “Poetry is a natural medicine; it is like a homeopathic tincture derived from the stuff of life itself—your experience.”
But it also can be intimidating. Here’s an exercise from Fox’s book to ease into writing poetry:
▪ Make a list of images from your childhood. Pick the ones that have positive memories. “Treat them like snapshots you might look through after many years,” Fox writes. Recall the sensations you experienced—what you saw, smelled, heard, felt and tasted. “Absorb the image into your body—feel as if you are reliving the remembered image.” Describe your experience quickly.
▪ Write down the emotions associated with these images, such as “wonder about flight” or “love and sadness for the hurt of a creature.”
Write a poem using the details you’ve collected. “Stay in touch with your senses as you focus on your image; listen for the voice of the image; and then express the feeling drawn from your primary image.” Show the feeling in your poem instead of labeling it as happy or sad.