The Work, Part II

Continued from Tuesday, July 24 post.

I told another story.

Now

I am 40 years old. I live in Atrisco, off the corner of Bridge and Goff, with my family. Our house sites on half an acre, and we have a nonprofit organization that runs a small organic farm. Our lead farmer grew up in the house next door. He is 34 years old and has lived here his entire life. He wears baggy shorts and diamond stuff earrings. A tribal tattoo wraps around his right bicep. Three years ago, he almost went to prison. Now he is a father. He makes his living off of what he grows. He oversees a crew of eight men and women, all Chicano, all from our neighborhood. D. and little A. started their own plot two blocks away on Lake. Before the farm, D. worked off and on as a cook. A. applied at Home Depot. Their sugar snap peas went into our food boxes for the community supported agriculture program. Big A. works at Whataburger. Six weeks ago he rode by on his bike one day, saw the crew washing radishes and asked if he could volunteer picking weeds. Now he’s getting paid to harvest. He grew up here, but lives in a hotel on Central with his teenage son because he got evicted and can’t afford a house or rent. Our neighbor across the street has lived here his entire life. He used to run his own business, a mechanic shop, until he hurt his back and couldn’t work anymore. When he was well, he stood over six feet tall. Now he walks bent over with a cane and can’t reach things on high shelves. His wife works two jobs, though she is retirement age. When the economy tanked, they almost lost their house to foreclosure. They have worked all their lives. They are Christians and vote Republican.

* * *

And then I gave another prompt, much like the first, but focused on a different period of time.

Free Write Prompt #2: Now

Think back to a moment from this current period of your life when you experienced or witnessed racial inequity.

Again, try to think of a specific moment, rather than a broad period of time. (e.g. My first day on the job vs. the years I’ve worked as a project director.)

Though the moment could be something shaped by larger historical events, try to focus on something that you either experienced or witnessed directly, something from your own home, work, or community, rather than something on television or in a movie.

Write a simple description of that moment. Tell the story of what happened using dates, facts, and sensory details (what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched). Try to simply describe the event without interpreting it or trying to make meaning of it. If it helps, think of this as what Sue Silverman calls a “voice of innocence,” a child’s voice simply reporting what happened.

Try to write for the entire allotted time without lifting your pen and without making corrections to your work. This is a free-write. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Write in the language that will best help you tell this story. The important thing here is the process and the story. Simply enjoy the process of your pen moving across the page. This will help you get the story down.

 * * *

While they wrote, I walked around the room, paying attention to the time, chatting with a participant who joked about never being good at school. He said he didn’t like to write. He sketched, told a few stories, and despite my best efforts (Maybe you could just jot down a few words, some thoughts, rather than full sentences?), I could not redirect him to the page. It’s okay. He was present, participating in his own way.

I used to sit down and write alongside participants in my workshops. I don’t know what changed or why I stopped, but now I simply hold the space, careful not to intrude on anyone’s process, tuned in to the vibe in the room. At one point, I veered too close to someone. I was checking the timer, which happened to sit on a small table at his back. “It makes me all nervous when you stand behind me,” he said. He laughed, but I got it. The last thing I want to be is a standardized test proctor. Funny, just last night I had a dream I was studying for the GRE. Despite my lack of preparation, I aced the verbal section of the electronic practice test. I took another one and aced that. But even in my dream, I thought I was getting lucky. I was afraid to take the actual test, to prove to myself and everyone else it was just a fluke. I think it speaks to my life right now, how lucky I feel to be doing the work I am doing, how I can’t quite believe my good fortune, and how each time I step away from a workshop, I am a little amazed at how well it went.

Stepping into my big life is a daily practice. Stripping down to the basics, the Voice of Innocence, helps me to live and tell this story that is my life.

Try the prompt. Post your work as a comment or email it to me at kmotero_at_gmail_dot_com. Then we’ll meet back here on Tuesday, August 14.

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Published in: on August 9, 2012 at 7:34 am  Leave a Comment  

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