Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mr. Mouton's Dream-Write, An Exercise For the Last Class of a Writing Course #NWP

In 1990, my last English class at Cicero North Syracuse High School, my speech teacher asked all of us to take out a sheet of paper and guided us through a narrative he thought was worthy of 18 year olds heading out into the world. He didn't tell us much, but offered the advice to write in much detail and to describe all we could as he laid out idea after idea about what we should write about. He said the story would make sense when we finished, but not to worry about the story...just the details. I've used the same activity with graduating seniors ever since I began teaching and now use it on the last night of graduate courses on teaching writing.

The task is simple. You are on a road. There is water. There are trees. There is a box. There is a key. There is a hole in one tree. There is a note in your pocket. There is a wall. And there is a bear. You ask students to write extensively on each as you bring them along for the scripted journey. Tonight, this is what I wrote alongside my students.

I am floating these days, looking down at highways, landscapes, and geography, trying to make sense of the maps and graphics below me and the choices of locating myself in a single spot below. I see the freeways, the parkways, the neighborhoods, and expressways, but I decide to land on a footpath where I can travel all by myself and take one footstep at a time. I need to walk. I need to depart from the business of the everyday and settle with the mundane, the simple, the natural and the practical. The path, I believe, is heading to more tranquility and stability. I want to walk this road, not the one with all the busy people and their worries.

To the left I see the ocean. The waves are lapping and the seagulls are flying, but there's no one on the beach. It is sundown and the sun-worshipers have left their hedonistic ways. The sands belong to loners, philosophers, dreamers and the occasional moonlit jogger. 

I see palm trees decorated with Christmas lights and I am thinking how nice it is to see the festivities celebrated in new ways. Each stands as its own empire, but seems stable by its independence and stoicism. I look to them for history and find strength in the confidence they exude.

I find a tiny box. It's red, almost burgundy, and I imagine there's jewelry inside. There isn't though. It's a glass figurine of an animal, a unicorn, and I realize that The Great Whatever left it as a gift for me. I love that it fits in my pocket and that I keep it in my pocket for comfort.

I put the box in my pocket and it settles on my my set of keys: to my house, to my car, to my office and to my life. I think it is amazing that it still has my original key chain - inscribed with Ripley - that was given to me at the age of 16. The keys are the connectors to my life.

I approach the palm trees with the lights and decide to stick my hand in a hole of one of them. I'm not comfortable doing this, but I reach in without looking. I pull out a long train of white lights and think to myself it is my job to bring these lights with me to hang on a tree that is not decorated, and that needs some glimmer and hope.

I pull out a wad of notes from my back pocket, probably a thought I imagined as important, but that was not as profound as I originally thought it to be. It simply said, "Go for it. Right now is as good and bad as it will ever get."

I reach the end of my footpath and there's a rock wall. I realize beyond the path there's only ocean. I am at the edge, so I sit on the rocks and look out at the moon, glistening upon the ocean water. 

On the rocks, I look up to the constellations ad try to find the North Star and Orion or Ursa Minor, the Bear, or any image I was taught to notice while looking up at the night sky. But all I see is magic, and the peacefulness of being alone in the universe. I can sit in on these rocks forever, because this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Mr. Mouton's exercise affected me as a high school senior because it offered insight to my story that I was unconscious of knowing. It was spot on. The road is the journey and water is life. The trees are friends and the box is the self (inside, you find more about who you are). The hole in the tree is your relationship/philosophy with life and death, and the wall is the obstacle we face. The bear is authority and how we react to it all tells us a story about the person we're meant to be.

Rewriting last night, I tried to go free without knowledge of what things were supposed to mean. I just wrote and then chose to post this today. Reflecting on my guided narrative, I've decided I've come a long way in 24 years. And this is a great thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment