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Today’s assignment for Writing 101 was yet another struggle for me. But in lieu of not being able to connect with the prompt, they were kind enough to provide an alternative: If you have trouble finding ideas this way, think about the things we leave behind. Tell us about a time you’ve left an object, place, person, or even an idea behind — and had to move on.

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autumn forest

This morning I reblogged a beautiful, poignant poem, September 23rd, by Plato at Plato’s Groove. It made me feel very emotional. September 23rd was the autumnal equinox this year. Autumn is MY season. Always has been. Apart from all the wonderful celebrations and smells and sounds that reclaim my memories from the past, harvest time speaks to my heart about drawing family together to stand united against the winter that is coming (not to sound like Game of Thrones or anything!), to prevail over the cold, barren land and emerge in the spring to that new birth. In medieval times villages practiced a custom that was very much symbolic of that thought.

Samhain (pronounced SAH-win) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31st to sunset on November 1st. The festival falls approximately halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals. In the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to November 1st, while the 2nd later became All Souls’ Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged to create the modern Halloween.

One of the customs of the Samhain festival was having a big bonfire in the village made from bits of materials from every village home. The people would then douse their hearth fires, and each family would solemnly re-light its hearth from the communal bonfire, thus bonding the families of the village symbolically saying they would stand together against the darkness for another season.

In the past autumn has always held that kind of hope for me, the vision of that coming rebirth. I reveled in the piles of burning leaves, the cooler weather, hayrides, wiener and marshmallow roasts in the woods. In fact, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because that’s when families get together sans presents as incentive to be with one another. (I suspect that’s when a lot of us put on an extra layer of fat, harkening back to our caveman days, to help survive the winter! 😀 ) But this past week something happened for me that extinguished a hope I’d held onto for years and years. A hope that also carried me through the winter times in my life as I waited to see if the new year would bring some much-needed change. And I’ve finally realized that my hope has been in vain.

That’s why Plato’s poem was so poignant this morning.

Smothered Soul surges from the depths desperate to break the surface /
Moved, broken, and remade in the image of what Ought to be but is now not, Yet /
Joy and Sorrow live together there in that place between the Now and that which is coming /
But that is living. Being alive brings pain and pleasure sometimes at once /
Holding them in tension is living and is the power of creation /

This is the first year of my life that autumn has meant loss for me instead of hope. Now I have to reorient myself and trust that Plato is right and the power of creation is truly at work in my life.

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Writing 101 Day 17

Mine your own material

The physical artifacts of our lives act as our raw material: hardbound journals, photo albums, newspaper clippings, belongings handed down to us. But these days, we also document and live online, so we can treat our blogging platforms and social spaces in the same way.

I like looking for post ideas in these places. I once used phrases from a forgotten draft in my dashboard to create almost-poetry. I’ve searched my social accounts for old Facebook posts and tweets and written blog posts about my social media behavior. I’ve experimented with creative content generators, like Poetweet, which uses your tweets to create poems.

Imagine a shopper searching for vintage items at a flea market, or an artist using recycled materials to build a sculpture. Can you dig through your online treasures and build upon old stories and existing writing? Here are more ideas:

  • Take a peek in the drafts section of your dashboard. Can you use unpublished copy in a new way?
  • Scroll through your Facebook wall and see if any posts catch your eye. Do you feel the same as when you first posted something? Can you comment on how you’ve evolved?
  • Look at the stream of tweets you’ve favorited over time. Why did you favorite a particular tweet? What does your list of favorites say about you?
  • If you use the Tag Cloud Widget, scan the terms in your tag cloud. Can you write prose or poetry that uses most of these words?

If you have trouble finding ideas this way, think about the things we leave behind. Tell us about a time you’ve left an object, place, person, or even an idea behind — and had to move on.