More than Just Food

If you’ve been following my Tuscany Virtual Vacation blog for the last week, you might think all we do day after day is eat phenomenal food, look at remarkable beauty, and have amazing outings. But actually, we spend several hours in writing class every morning.

Here’s one of the writing exercises I gave my students yesterday:

This was the set up:

Think about a question you’re wrestling with: a decision you have to make, a place you’re feeling stuck, an impasse you’ve reached, a challenge you’re facing, a mood that can’t lift.

Once everyone had something in mind, I read them this poem twice:

“My Dead Friends”
by Marie Howe
I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,

to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy’s ashes were —
it’s green in there, a green vase,

and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy’s already gone through the frightening door,

whatever he says I’ll do.

“My Dead Friends” by Marie Howe, from What the Living Do. © W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Then I led everyone in a guided visualization.

“I want you to bring to mind someone who has passed over to the other side. Someone you loved or admired, someone whose counsel you sought and listened to, someone who understood and knew you deeply, someone you trust and considered wise.”

Then I gave them this prompt:

Write in the voice of a dead friend or an ancestor. Let them speak through your pen, giving you the advice you most need to hear right now. Start with the words, Start with a greeting in ‘Dearest Richard….” Or my dear Evelyn. Or Hey You…however that person would have addressed you.

We wrote for twenty minutes. The results were incredibly moving. Why don’t you try it at home?

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