chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

trying to write…and remember…

wordsYesterday I opened a three-ring binder that was on the shelf next to my desk. It was filled with information about writing workshops, all dated from 2003. Neatly snapped into the notebook was a small envelope with this apparently random collection of words. At first, they meant nothing, my mind a blank. Then, using 2003 as a clue, I began to piece together a jigsaw memory.

My mother had recently died. I was hobbling on a badly arthritic hip. My writing business had been perking along for a while, but the ‘other side’ of my writing life consisted primarily of a bulging shelf of gloomy journals. A workshop seemed just the thing.

So I spent a long weekend at a writing retreat in Northern California. I remember being a little scared, not knowing what was expected of me, assuming, as always, that the other participants were more accomplished, more confident and more capable. I remember the peculiarity of the place — modest bungalows set alongside a collection of rescued exotic cats and equally exotic birds in huge cages.

Looking back into my journal, I see that our first assignment was to write a piece that included the phrases My real name is; Yesterday my name was; Tomorrow my name will be; In my dream my name is or was. I don’t recall whether the phrases were assigned all at once or doled out one at a time as we wrote. We were also to incorporate words we drew from somewhere — a list, an envelope, a hat. Here’s what I wrote:

My real name is doubt beneath strength. Wrapped in a thin skin of milk my days reveal my unnamed soul. Slipping beneath a barrage of words I hide who I am. I hide from myself and pretend to understand the tundra. Yesterday my name was bound in ropes, hidden in the Paleolithic Diaspora of dreaming, doubled over in interlocking chains of queries and bent, ironic question marks. Tomorrow my name will be carried on the wind through the cobbled streets of Budapest. It will be inscribed on the tusk of an ancient mastodon, livid with hope, illuminated with randomness. In my dream, my name is color, frothing along the tear-streaked tracks of secret roads slippery with desire, opulent with sinuous form, luminous with pearly light, an unfolding fan of dénouement.

I don’t know whether the words in the binder (except for tusk) are words I never got around to using, or how I happened to keep them. But once I’d pieced together the memory, everything else went into the recycling bin.

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