Sight, Watching, Seeing
In May's Drop In Workshop, we focused on listening and sound.
This week we focused on what we attend to with our eyes.
I started by asking participants to close their eyes,
paying attention to what they saw when I read this:
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Next we went outside to The Cabin's yard. I asked participants to:
Find a site that draws you near.
Focus on one small section of that site. One object.
Sit with it for a good five minutes at least.
Spend five minutes finding a place, five sitting with it, watching, paying attention.
Not writing yet.
After that five minutes is up,
spend time drawing what you see.
You don’t have to be good at drawing, just sketch what you’ve been sitting with.
No judging what you draw. Get it down, not perfect. Get down what you see.
Then, spend time writing down everything you see.
No need to be precious –
this can be a written piece like a poem/story/essay or just notes.
Then go back and either write or draw some more.
I’ll come around and remind you, let you know when to pick up the next thing.
Again, the sequence was:
Find the thing
Sit with the thing
Draw the thing
Write the thing
Draw or write
When we returned inside, we paired up with a buddy
and shared what we wrote and drew.
Then we read this poem, and spoke to what we saw:
by KATHLEEN JAMIE
Last night, when the moon
slipped into my attic room
as an oblong of light,
I sensed she’d come to commiserate.
It was August. She traveled
with a small valise
of darkness, and the first few stars
returning to the northern sky,
and my room, it seemed,
had missed her. She pretended
an interest in the bookcase
while other objects
stirred, as in a rock pool,
with unexpected life:
strings of beads in their green bowl gleamed,
the paper-crowded desk;
the books, too, appeared inclined
to open and confess.
Being sure the moon
harbored some intention,
I waited; watched for an age
her cool gaze shift
first toward a flower sketch
pinned on the far wall
then glide down to recline
along the pinewood floor,
before I’d had enough. Moon,
I said, We’re both scarred now.
Are they quite beyond you,
the simple words of love? Say them.
You are not my mother;
with my mother, I waited unto death
So now, dear reader, after you do all of the above, take:
1. your notes,
2. the image you drew,
3. one line or one image of a partner’s work,
4. a line or phrase from the Moon poem,
5. something you see around you right now
6. and one true thing (whatever that means to you)
and write all that into a new story/poem/essay/something else.
That's what we did, and turning out some beautiful material.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: