Monday, April 20, 2009

Memoir exercise: a picture

This is the latest of the exercises I've done for my memoir class. The assignment was: choose one photograph that connects to your memoir and write as much as you can about the photograph. Include who is in the photo, where they are, what they are doing, how you feel about the event/place, etc. Below is what I wrote. Please leave feedback--I'm eager to know what people think.

The picture is of me in the coma. I’m lying on the hospital bed, hooked up to various machines and monitors. I have tubes going into/out of various parts of me: breathing tube, feeding tube, insulin drip, sedative drip, and so on. You can’t tell what all the tubes are, and I can’t really tell that I’m in a coma—I could be sleeping, except for the fact that I never sleep on my back.

In the spirit of fun, there are troll ponytail holders on each of my big toes. I loved trolls when I was 11, and my family wanted to bring something silly that I would have enjoyed (had I been conscious) to the room. There is an Irish flag at the head of the bed. I’m part Irish, and was obsessed with that part of my heritage. Since St. Patrick’s day had come while I was in the coma, “I” celebrated with the flag in my hospital room. My security blanket (which I slept with back then, and still do today!) and my stuffed lion are by my side. My family has done what they could to make my hospital room homey.

Mom is sitting next to the bed reading something—I can’t see what. She’s looking down at what she’s reading, holding it in her lap. The picture was taken after many of the lines and machines I was initially hooked up to were removed, and Mom looks serious, but not panicked.

I feel blasé about the picture, partly because I’m so familiar with the story and because it’s been so long since it happened. It doesn’t inspired great emotion in me, but at one point it interested me because it showed me during a time that is missing from my memory. It often seems like something that happened to someone else. My recovery sticks firmly in my memory, but I know nothing other than what I’ve been told about the time while I was in the coma.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Memoir Mining

Here's another writing sample from my memoir class. The assignment was to write a passage starting with "I remember." The teacher really liked my submission--I hope you do, too! Let me know what you think.

I remember the bluebell-carpeted woods behind our house in England. Each summer, the bluebells would bloom, turning the woods into a sea of blue. It was breathtaking. You would almost expect to see fairies dancing among their flower homes; dwarves, unicorns, dragons, and princesses wouldn't have been out of place. Fairy tales are made in places like this.

I could play in those woods for days, if permitted. I would invent magical friends, dangerous adventures, and discovery-filled journeys, either by myself or with my sisters. We are a family blessed with imagination. Worlds were ours to explore in this magical place called The Woods.

We had names for a few of the 'roads' in the woods. These included Foxhole Road--named for the holes that we assumed housed the foxes who frequently graced our back garden--and, logically, Main Road, which was the biggest road, and the only one that vehicles could pass.

I remember the cows who summered in 'our' fields; being suburban folk, we were endlessly entertained by living next door to cows. One summer it was horses instead of cows, and we loved them! There was one beigey-colored horse that we named Peachy. She was beautiful, and we were sad to see her and her fellows go at the end of the summer.

England was a wild, magical, magnificent adventure that left me with an overactive imagination and a taste for nature.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This is an exercise for a memoir writing class I'm taking. I'm so pleased with the results that I thought I'd share it with the world! The exercise was: write about your treasures. Here's what I wrote:

My treasures are many and varied. Some of them are material things, like my books or my rock collection, but most of them are spiritual. My material treasures are probably easier to write about, because I have words to describe them—so that’s where I’ll start.

I mentioned my books; I am more than an avid reader; my soul depends on reading. I am capable of going a day or two without a book, but I start to wither and die inside if I go too long. Reading is my heroin, and books are my fix. I don’t get the same reading high from magazines or newspapers. There’s just something about holding a book, with its glossy soft cover, corners slightly battered like an old tomcat’s ears, and the smoothness of the pages between my fingers, that soothes my soul. I regularly get too little sleep because I read in bed and lose track of time while I’m in the world of words on the page. I can escape any troubles in my life through the magic of books.

Other worldly treasures are a cup of tea on a rainy day (or any day, but there’s something even more special about tea when it’s raining), flowers blooming in spring after the long silent dormancy of winter, a breathtaking sunset, the world under a fresh carpet of snow the morning after a snow storm, and the booming power of a summer thunderstorm. Part of what makes these treasures for me is their fleetingness. I can enjoy the moment of my cup of tea on a rainy day, or watching a thunderstorm, knowing it will end. I know that this pleasure is for a finite time, but that I will get to enjoy it again someday.

My spiritual treasures start with peace—peace of mind, of soul, of emotion, and of body. This is one of the gifts I received from the journey of my stroke; the ability to experience peace in turbulent circumstances. Over the years since my stroke, I’ve come to lean more and more on God and trusting that He knows what is right and good, and that somehow, some day, I’ll see how His plan has played out in my life. During those dark moments, I can take a step back and be eager to see how this will end up blessing me and the world. God has given me the confidence that, despite the fact that I feel awful and I don’t think that what’s happening is a blessing, in the light of eternity it is a blessing and I will understand how and why when God leads me there. Knowing that He can use even my stupidest mistakes and poorest decisions to make blessings is a comfort, and from that I derive peace.

Peace leads me to joy. Knowing that, with God’s peace, everything will work out to the good even if it’s not in my lifetime, frees me to feel all-encompassing joy even in dull moments. I can look at the sky and feel awe at its scope and know that all is well. The joy swells up inside me, starting at my stomach, and pushes all my negative feelings away. And with that radiating joy surrounding me, I can share some of my peace with others. It’s a “vicious” cycle—I feel peace, which leads me to joy, which brings me more peace…

These are my treasures.