By Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., NAMW President
Here in March in California, the morning light splashes on the yellow daffodils, creating sun spots in the yard, a nodding and smiling garden that responds to the warmth of the ever increasing sun. Even the roses are budding! It’s wonderful to experience this opening of the life force—even if you might be seeing your daffodils peeking up between snow mounds. Our energy lifts and we eagerly look forward to more light.
Writers and all creative artists create patterns of light with their work, searching to bring warmth into the light and into dark corners of the soul. Memoir writers ask me how I write—with computer or by hand. I believe that writing by hand helps us to slow down, to connect deeply with the body-mind that is creating the writing. Along the way, surprising topics, words, and sentences appear. You might begin writing about a birthday party, but suddenly a dark memory shows up—unbidden and unwelcome. We soldier on, trying to rein ourselves back to the topic we selected, only to find it happening again. Oftentimes, a kernel of gold shows up under the dirt when we discover a new insight, a new way to look at life. That’s the magic of writing!
It’s important to keep your eye on the light while dig into your story, and yet, listen to what the story wants to tell you. Dr. James Pennebaker, the premier researcher in the field of memoir writing, says, “Story is a way of knowledge.” I believe this completely, and my students are believers too, the ones who have allowed the story to have its way with them.
For me, one of those stories is digging in the garden with my great-grandmother at the age of eight—the earthy loam, the bugs flying in my eyes, the smell of her sweat, her skirt lifting up to reveal the backs of her knees, how she stoops and groans, her breath coming out in little puffs. Then, she holds a ripe tomato in front of my face and tells me to eat it. It’s shiny red, with a crawling ladybug making her rounds. It’s dirty and smells tart and strongly of dirt, but when I bite down, my head explodes into tastes and sensations I’ve never known before, and the world shifts. The sky arcs above me, the trees are brushed with wind, and I can smell the Mississippi River.
This moment rested against the absence of my mother and father, a year with foster parents, and the ache in my heart. Blanche, that moment in the Iowa garden, and taking myself back again through words, have helped with the darkness throughout my life as well as with completing my memoir.
Capture your turning points—the positive moments that changed your life—using scent, sounds, and description to bring scenes to life. It’s a joy to relive treasured moments through writing.
It feeds us to reflect upon the scenes and moments that hold us, that contain us within the blessings of our lives. Life brings pain, and we need to find ways to cope with it. Writing toward the light, writing the special moments of love, connection, and transcendence, is a way to make life brighter and juicily creative!
Happy Spring, and visit with your garden or the plants along your path that are arising into the new light of growth and fertility.