“We’re all gonna die!”

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org 15 June 2021

We had just been married a few weeks. Keith was on a camping trip with the youth group. On Friday morning, my only day off of the campout, I drove the two-hour trip to enjoy the day with them at the state park.

It had rained the night before, and everything was damp. We spent part of the day dealing with wet camping gear, but also swimming, hiking and other fun.

When dinner time approached, my husband tried to start a campfire for the hotdogs and s’mores. He had a metal can of Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid, the kind you squeeze onto the wood. He tried to start a fire with this damp wood and kindling, throwing matches on that would not fully catch on fire. He doused it some more, then threw another match.

The lit match-squirt pattern continued until finally the fire took hold and shot up during the squirt phase. Our previously non-existent fire leapt from the ground up to become a flame thrower’s masterpiece–a flaming river flowing up from the ground. He instinctively threw the flaming bottle up and out of his hand. “We’re all gonna die!” he yelled. In that split second he pictured the metal can had sucked the fire into the fuel and became a bomb ready to explode (as we had seen on recent news warnings).

Being the brave fool I was, I grabbed not a handful of dirt, but someone’s sleeping bag that had been drying on a makeshift clothesline. I smothered the fire, which had spread out of the fire ring.

I don’t recall where or if it was spreading really; it was damp there in this forest and obviously not a fire tinder box ready to create a forest fire. Fortunately the charcoal fluid bomb fizzled, but the scorched and ruined sleeping bag now needed to be replaced. So, instead of sitting around the campfire, I drove to Target in the nearest town and bought a new sleeping bag so the teenager could sleep that night.

Fast forward 38 years. Last week was our anniversary, and we reminisced about some early memories, this one included. At the time he yelled “We’re all gonna die!” I wondered what I had gotten myself into. He may have wondered about me too.

Today Keith is known in meetings and groups as the non-anxious presence–a wise leader, looked to for surety and strength.

It’s good to not look too soon for the final person another will become–this wisdom is not just for children, but for partners, as well. Thanks be to God that we have hung onto each other through all kinds of exposing behaviors, and I am so grateful.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

Inspiration today was from The Isolation Journals, Prompt 151, by Ashley C. Ford taken from a portion of her memoir Somebody’s Daughter, which is a beautiful memoir and this month’s Book Club Pick.

“Think of a memory related to fire. How did it impact you then? What meaning do you forge from it now?”

Imagine a World

Yesterday I went to the Hatch, a “virtual coffee shop where together we write” hosted by Suleika Jaouad, author of Between Two Kingdoms and founder of The Isolation Journals. I grabbed this screenshot during our session. Of course, there were really a hundred or so people writing together, but I took this photo because I found it fun to think about writing with these two, cozy in the same home in New England, and me writing here in Bahrain.

Carmen Ridley shared this passage for inspiration, from Adrienne Rich’s Sources:

To say no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors… I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.

—Adrienne Rich, Sources

Carmen’s prompt:

Imagine a world that can contain the multitudes you encompass. Where there is space for the paradoxes inside yourself. Where you can be a warrior and weep. How do people speak to each other? What do they make and build? Where do they live? How do they solve problems, raise children, grow their food? How do they war? Where do they weep?

I didn’t get much further than how people would speak and listen to each other in this imagined world. My poem inspired by Carmen’s prompt:

Imagine a world where pain could be tamed
where we didn’t have to be afraid
to take off our preservers of pretense
(Those other masks we’ve worn our lives long)
A world we could share our depths
and expanse with each other

Imagine a world where every word we spoke
was caught by listeners, brave and true.
Weeping, laughing, alive listeners
nesting with us in the pain,
helping us handle the hurts
without burning our hands

Imagine a world where receptivity
reigns and revelation is the result,
iron sharpening iron, each of us
no longer alone together,
but treasuring the beauty of the other–
bearing, hoping, enduring our weaknesses

Imagine a world where doubts become sorted,
obstacles become opportunities,
hopes become renewed,
where we all listen with delight
and solve with intent a launching
of liberty and justice for all.

Denise Krebs
8 May 2021

Break-Up Letter to 2020

Dear 2020,

I am thankful we made it this far, but I am going to say goodbye today. We are finished.

Thankfully,

Denise

When I chose my one word for 2020, time, it was partly because I never had enough. I was never able to accomplish everything (hardly anything it seemed) on my to-do list. I think it had more to do with the fact that I am a teacher than that I was lazy or unproductive.

Ironically, though, early in the year I had more time than I needed. We were sent home from school on February 26, 2020. Learning online continued, and it was stressful at times, but time became much more plentiful. I did manage to achieve some of my hopes for 2020–like doing the NYT mini puzzle each day and taking a one-second video each day. (OK, I know!) But a big hope for me was to be more intentional about building relationships and leadership in those I work with. And, thankfully, this has been a definite highlight.

There were other hopes I did not reach. For instance, I haven’t finished my TESOL certificate or read 40 books in 2020. Why was it that 2020 was not a good reading year? I wondered quite often.

However, I spent some of my 2020 time on things that were not even on my list from last year, ideas that pre-covid were unheard of and/or long-neglected in my life.

  • I learned to cook with spices.
  • I have been exercising and lost 30 extra pounds that did not need to be on my body.
  • I took better care of my mental health.
  • I edited the videos for 40 online worship services for church.
  • I wrote more than 75 poems and more than 150 blog posts.
  • I have not gotten covid-19.

For all these things I am grateful. Since I’ve been practicing thankfulness when I wrote some gratiku and a poem about gratitude in November, I thought giving thanks is a worthy yearlong plan (or longer).

So, for 2021, I am choosing to be thankful, to say thank you every day to my God and to the people around me and in my life. Life is short, and I can’t always be productive. I’m going to embrace life and say thank you for it, even while I keep working for love, peace, change, and justice. While I work, and even when I’m unproductive, my one word for 2021 is Gratitude.

One word for 2021 --gratitude written on a canvas setting on a small easel
My one word for 2021

Images: Hour glass timer by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Thank you blocks by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash

Other one word posts
Voice
Fit
Serenity
Hope
Sow
Time

The Isolation Journals Prompt 122 by Ezra Bookman
Choose one bit of gunk you want to get rid of, something you don’t want to carry with you into 2021. A negative thought you use to put yourself down, a limiting belief or bad habit. Some idol in your inner temple that’s holding your light back from the world. Write it a goodbye letter, as if you’re breaking up with it.

Waiting

Waiting

Are you ready for Karak tea?
My husband’s gift to pour–
Friday mornings, quietly free
This chai, my drink du jour

On this Advent winter Morning
Emmanuel–God with us
Gift of Ransom from our mourning
Rescued from pain and pus

Rejoice, rejoice–God with us, here
In this place, in becoming–
Sipping sweet, spicy, milky Tea
Pause and smile. He’s coming.

The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad Prompt #120 by Cat Miles.

Write about a beloved drink—about how you make it, a memory associated with it, or the way it connects you to others or yourself.

I combined this with another prompt about using Emily Dickinson’s techniques. I attempted #1, writing about a mundane subject with a bigger idea, and #2, using common meter and rhyme. It was also easy to throw in techniques #3, capitalized nouns, and #4, use of dashes. I think I’ll keep practicing! Especially on #2.

Death

Death

For you, the pandemic is only a
history lesson owned by
old folks who shudder about
having gone to Zoom school
when they were kids.
The fear of fundamentalism
was in its prime back then
And it happened at a time when some
in our country were so poor
they didn’t have
homes, enough food or health care.
Do you believe it?

I am your ancestor and you know little about me
No reason for you to imagine the problems I helpfully solved
or my taste for sweet juicy mango
No reason for you to know that I was a storyteller
and a story writer or that I tried
to help children
own their learning

You will live your life well without knowing how I
could bake chocolate chip cookies as well as Mrs. Field,
nurture sourdough for years without killing it, and
edit videos for online church services.

All my digital files were
put into the Recycle Bin
with one click of
a mouse,
(do you still call them that?)
maybe two clicks.

I remember how I died,
and because I couldn’t stop myself,
Death kindly came for me.

He slowed down for me to smell the
jasmine in the garden,
to eat the spicy rice,
ignoring the chicken.
He let me say goodbye to the butterflies
and cheetahs, the puffins and the elephants
He let me hold a newborn baby, pet a fluffy puppy,
and write once more with a fine pen.
He let me listen to favorites by
Simon and Garfunkel,
Gordon Lightfoot,
and Carole King,
like an old person.

He told me
the unfinished paper piles,
collections of “important” stuff,
unfinished to-do lists
could all be left behind
and no one,
really, no one,
would care.

All those things I had spent decades counting as gain,
I finally was able to count as loss
Looking back,
I can see how
taking Him by the hand
gave me more than
I could ever imagine

Prompt 116 by Mark Wunderlich:
Write a poem in which the speaker is dead but still possesses a consciousness and is capable of thought and speech. Include rich description and concrete physical details, as if the speaker is greedy for the sensory experience of life on earth.

Mentor texts shared by Mark, including one of his own poems. I used ideas or phrases from each of these in my poem:

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

“Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh” by Thomas James

“Our Dust” by C.D. Wright

“To Whom It May Concern” by Mark Wunderlich

and a Bible verse that inspired me Philippians 3:8