I recently spent a week with ten Road Scholars (formerly known as Elderhostel participants) who had come to Cedar Lakes Craft Center in Ripley, WV to work on memoir writing in a class I titled: Your Own Story, Your Own Words. It was a wonderful week for me because of their stories. I particularly enjoy Road Scholar groups because they have lived long enough to gather interesting life experiences and because they were young during an era when young people actually learned how sentences work. (Remember diagramming? It really was a useful exercise.)
This picture of Cedar Lakes, which I snapped one morning just as the sun was rising, seemed to illustrate an experience several of my students described. Thanks to my friend Kathryn, whose skills include leading meditation and yoga sessions, each day’s writing prompt was actually a short period of relaxation, cleansing breaths, and a guided “entry meditation” that allowed the students to proceed quietly and gently from remembering to picking up the pen (or going to the keyboard) to put their own history into words.
More than once, a writer who claimed to remember almost nothing from a particular time would find, as he or she let the guided “movie” play out behind their eyelids, that images, textures, sounds, tastes, and smells began to come to them in clear detail, like objects emerging from a foggy landscape.
And, by staying attached to their senses, the writers managed to convey the living essence of their experiences to the rest of us. Some stories made us laugh, and others made us cry. By the end of the week, the shared stories had made us into friends.