I joined a writer's group on a whim last week.  

I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone.  

I've never had any trouble being published.  Never had any trouble thinking of ideas to write about on my blogs or...elsewhere.

But something in me yearned to go back to those early days, the days when I just enjoyed curling up with a pad and pen to tell myself stories.  I hadn't thought seriously about being published then.  It was just for the love of writing--I didn't even see it as practice.  It was pure, unadulterated infatuation with the written word and where those words could take me.

Back then, I would stay locked away scribbling until family and friends began to worry about it.  And it was an addiction--it felt good.  The pen in my hand, the words flowing out of the end of it...I was intoxicated by it.

But somewhere along the way--after I was hired at the Chicago Sun Times, I think--I set the pen and pad aside forever.  Except to take notes.  And I began to use a tape recorder for notes, too, after a while.   

So yesterday I bought a little portfolio at the Walgreens at the end of the block where the writing group meets and strolled in feeling a wee bit unsure that I'd made the right choice. 

For starters, there were only two members in the room.  The man who had organized the group some years ago had had a family emergency, and had emailed the group after I had already headed into town.  I live on the outskirts of Tucson, so I left earlier than most.

A few others had also arrived to discover the meeting had been cancelled, but they had left.  The two chatting as I entered had decided to wait and see.

I'm glad they did.

The woman who'd stayed challenged me and the man who stayed to complete a timed writing.   For fifteen minutes, we were to explore this prompt:

My daughter found Jesus on a ranch in New Mexico...

I think she might have said "dude" ranch, but as I took up my pen, my mind held onto only "daughter," "Jesus," "ranch," and "New Mexico."  

And as I am enthralled by all but one of those things—the “Jesus” part kinda threw me-- I picked up my pen...and began to scribble.  And I mean scribble.

My fingers are no longer used to doing much more than signing my name with a pen.  And also, after my illness last year, my fingers do not always do what I ask.  I have to concentrate, very hard sometimes, to form the words.

I decided not to be embarrassed if someone looked over and saw the scrawl.  I put my ego--and fears--aside and tried to channel the young girl who had so desperately wanted to "write" before she even knew what she wanted to write.  Or why.  Or how.

I got my John Boy on--I had such a crush on that kid back when, for being so much like me—he validated my addiction.  

And gradually my fingers and my muse loosened up.

This is the story they wrote:

“My daughter met Jesus on a ranch in New Mexico.

He was, she discovered, a member of one of the old families.  One of the very old families that had been there before the conquistadors arrived and would be there, he said, until all of the white people had finally killed themselves off as his people had prayed they would.

in the picture my daughter showed me, his white-pupiled eyes, clouded over with untended cataracts, were intense, unsettling.  What he could not see he could clearly feel.  It was a gaze that I knew would make me uncomfortable and afraid of the secrets he would steal from me.

My daughter said she had felt the same as he sat with his hands leaning on a crooked cane made from a cottonwood root.  He loved silences.  Paused often to ponder some inner world only he could access.  Or perhaps a past he preferred to the present.

He spoke of that past reverently and sorrowfully.  And yet there was a calm she rarely felt in the presence of anyone else.

He remembered trails, whole villages that had crumbled to dust decades ago.  He remembered most the school the white Christians, the ones who had given him his name, had built.

He was forced with the others to go to a school built by people whose God had killed his own son—or let him be killed—in a gruesome, gory way in front of multitudes.

To him, the name “Jesus” was a reminder not of Christian kindness, but rather of the brutality faced first by his namesake and then by his people.

It was why he pronounced it "GEE-sus," not “Hey-SOOS” in the Spanish way—hissing it like a curse, not murmuring it like a prayer.”

I think I will go back next week.

Views: 4241

Comment by Marlene Dunham on December 2, 2012 at 12:11pm

Yes, Keka, go back next week.  What a fascinating story.  In 15 minutes?  It sounds inspired.  Maybe I shall try that (I need inspsiration)


Comment by Chicago Guy on December 2, 2012 at 1:10pm

Bravo!!!!!!! I LOVED this. Seriously.

And John Boy? I SO wanted to BE John Boy! The only thing that got in the way was that I also thought Mary Ellen was incredibly hot. And I did know enough to know that was wrong. So I spent a lot of time with the Baldwin ladies. . .they had this recipe.. . .

Comment by JMac1949 Memories on December 2, 2012 at 2:53pm

GEE - SUS  R& L ;-)

Comment by Keka on December 2, 2012 at 8:58pm

So glad the experiment worked--thank you everyone!   And Chicago Guy, I STILL watch the Waltons.  One of the cable stations that tends toward "uplifting" shows is running "The Homecoming," the TV movie with Patricia Neal that was spun into the Waltons series, and I have watched it twice.  The recipe, and the constant chatter about Ashley Longworth still makes me smile...and...feel a little bit sad for those crazy old ladies.  John Boy?  I'm still hopelessly infatuated, all these many years later...

Comment by Gabby Abby on December 3, 2012 at 1:10pm

I love that you are doing this - your inner hand-writer has been sleeping. Give her a poke! I think you may have spurred me on to doing the same Keka.

Comment by Keka on December 3, 2012 at 7:29pm

Go Gabby!  It really felt good, even if I couldn't read my own writing out loud without squinting and hemming and hawing.  It's worth it--the feel of it definitely awakened one of my long lost muses.  We should all post some of our "long hand adventures."  Those of us who haven't written that way in a while.

Comment by caroline marie on December 7, 2012 at 11:42pm

Hi Keka!

I bought the walton dvds to watch with Penny - and we spent a lot of cozy evenings together doing so when she was younger. I don't know anyone else who liked the show -- I love hearing that you did too...and I love your story too.

Comment by Keka on December 8, 2012 at 10:06pm

Caroline, millions of people like the show, still. It amazes me that if you admit to it, all these closet Waltons fans will come out!   John Boy, John Lennon, James Dean and Holden Caulfield bring out my inner "fan girl," and I'm not the least bit ashamed--we all have guilty pleasures, and those are some of my favorites!

Comment by Ellen L. Cannon on December 21, 2012 at 10:33pm
Soul-stirring narrative!
Comment by The Songbird on May 14, 2019 at 8:14pm

I love that your fingers just decided to do the walking, and some of the cheeky little asides that slipped out along the way.  May-haps that's how we get stubborn limbs to bend?  I dunno - but I'm glad I have to use handwriting a couple days a week.  I can type as fast as I can talk, and it makes me think about how it will look, when I make someone else's permanent records.

GEE, sussed it, indeed.  Go back!  


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