The 5th of the 23 Words I Hung In The Trees

This poem is all about the process of expressive/free writing/stream of consciousness writing that I use in my workshops as the foundation for writing exercises.

It’s an ode to the bravery and courage of all who entrust themselves to the process of ‘adventuring into’ their thoughts and feelings through writing. And it’s about how we are all on this journey together and how the discoveries we make echo that of each other whilst also being unique and personal to each individual who comes to write around the table.

When a group has been writing together for awhile I have also found that an interesting pattern of echoes emerges in their writing from time to time. Some people have similar responses to a particular prompt or it takes them to very similar memories or issues. This leads to a response of recognition in each other and reinforces trust within the group. It is nourishing to be part of and one of my priviledges as a facilitator to witness.

It is also about the power of the acceptance of tears as a healthy response to joy and pain. Part of my work with every group is to help people unlearn the impulse to apologise for their tears within the safe environment of the group. To not be ashamed to cry when they become emotional because their writing has touched something that is difficult or painful or surprising. That tears are welcome and a healthy part of the process of learning to accept and grow as a result of these discoveries.

Image and poem Copyright Elaine Reid 2020

The 4th of 23 Words I Hung In The Trees

Today’s poem links to the last poem I shared because it too reflects on the collaboration I did with choreographer Mhairi Allan. It focus on how we worked together, sharing ideas whilst also respecting eachother’s contribution individually. It was also important to work slowly and particularly so that no important thought or idea was missed or lost. This resulted in a nurturing experience for us and a body of work that resonated deeply with those that took part.

TOGETHER

We take our time

threading thoughts,

placing them particularly

so as not to impose

on the ends

of the others.

We gift one wonder at a time

into upturned palms

to roll around,

deciphering pleasures

before selecting another

in return.

We compose a sequence

then invite others

 to trace the shapes  

of our choosing,

loose and yielding,

sparkling with intent.

It isn’t lost on me that this word is an all important factor in our current health crisis. Together we are able to achieve all sorts of victories that we can not achieve alone. This was what I learned most during the Flourish project – that coming together with others created an energy impossible to generate individually. It also expanded my practice hugely. Ultimately, the collaboration produced something richer in output and reach. Creativity built upon creativity and the joy that resulted impacted positively on the wellbeing of all.

Image and poem Copyright Elaine Reid 2020

The 3rd of the 23 Words I Hung In The Trees

Here is the third of the photos and poems I want to share, this time of the word, ‘entiwne’.

Entwined

For Mhairi

Your gentle kiss on my cheek on meeting,

the weightlessness of your fingertips

upon my arm, the fine-spun notes of your voice

cradling the air between us – such gestures

grace my life.  The crispness of your attention,

the poised placement of your words

one in front of the other to reach your meaning

has moments arcing between us,

teasing out the patterns we have chanced

into something others can weave their own

narratives into. These sequences

mouthed, moved through  – a kaleidoscope

of truths – mapping out discoveries   

choreographing curiosity, stoked.

I wrote this poem for Mhairi Allan, a choreographer I collaborated with during the Flourish project. Together we created a series of three workshops entitled, Breathe which used the 23 words as a springboard for movement. From the moment I met Mhairi, I was struck by how gently she carries herself through life and as our friendship grew I came to treasure it more and more. For this reason I chose to use the sonnet form of poetry to express my love for the time we spend together.

The Sonnet was traditionally written as a love poem and followed a strict 14 line rhyming pattern of alternating pairs. The first twelve lines contain the main idea of the poem whilst the last two lines (a rhyming couplet) feature a dramatic change in thought or emotion. However, in modern versions these ideas can be changed and played with however you wish. You will see in my version that I have taken one idea and expressed it throughout without using any rhyme. This approach is an easier road to follow through the form!

You could use the 14 line format to write a poem about someone you love or whose presence you cherish in your life. Or use the word ‘entwine’ as a theme for a piece of free writing or stream of consciousness writing about someone who’s life is entwined with your own, past, present or perhaps even future.

Image and poem Copyright Elaine Reid 2020

The 2nd of the 23 Words I Hung In The Trees

So here is the second photo and accompanying poem from my book, Temenos 23 that I want to share. Yesterday I started with the word ‘question’ so it makes sense to follow it with this one next!

You could use the photo as a springboard or the idea of questions and answers as a theme for a piece of free writing or stream of consciousness writing. Or you could take a photo of something on a walk of your own today and write in response to that.

This particular form of poetry is called a Haiku which is traditionally written in response to nature. I found it particularly useful when writing in the Wild Garden for capturing ‘snapshots’ of my experience of being there, in the moment. Re-reading it today, it struck me as being particularly pertinent regarding current events.

All 23 words were originally hung in the trees in the Wild Garden at The Barn, Banchory for the Flourish project. I chose each word for its links to nature or creativity or pure therapeutic merit. These were then used as a physical word search to encourage people to explore the garden in its entirety and as inspiration for creative writing exercises.

Answer

spring blossom flutters,

birds call and answer –

earth’s trust holding on

The 1st of the 23 Words I Hung In The Trees

So here is the first photo and accompanying poem from my book, Temenos 23 that I want to share. All 23 words were originally hung in the trees in the Wild Garden at The Barn, Banchory for the Flourish project. I chose each word for its links to nature or creativity or pure therapeutic merit. These were then used as a physical word search to encourage people to explore the garden in its entirety and as inspiration for creative writing exercises.

Questions

I hang my questions in the rowan trees,

watch light glint through pinnate leaves

illuminating and dimming freely.

Letters drip golden to the ground below

trickling into passages, furrowed,

beginning the change I want to know.

My weekly weaving between silvered boughs

emboldens colour, lets perfumes arouse

fresh words to my page in the notes of my now.

I raise my eyes and smile at how

one word and a tree compose a vow

to the moment present: ripe, devout.

Poem and photograph both Copyright Elaine Reid 2020.

Finding The Balance

My last blog on 14 January ended on an upbeat note –  ‘I hope your own year has started well and that the returning light brings you increased energy and inspiration.’  And then news of the Corona Virus began spreading.  The weeks in-between then and the start of the lockdown were spent in my studio continuing to work on my art exhibition, and in my study, continuing to read and write reports for my Poetry Therapy Practitioner qualification that I am oh-so-close to finishing.  I continued to walk the labyrinth in my back garden, to play and experiment with different forms of creative expression and to spend time with friends and family.  I also went to dance classes and Zumba at my local dance centre. Since Lockdown however, so much has changed.  But then again, I am also finding that many things remain the same. 

I read the news more – consuming it at breakfast-time along with my muesli.  I want to know what’s going on not just in the UK, but world-wide.  I’m on social media more; participating in a sketchbook challenge on Facebook to keep me creatively engaged; I’m Zooming with my book group and with friends in London; I’m face-timing with my creative partner, Fen; I’m learning more about oil and cold wax medium through YouTube videos; I’m video-calling over Messenger with dear friends who want to see a friendly face rather than just hear a voice; and I’m trying to keep dancing with live videos on YouTube Live but I just haven’t found anything with a reliable connection…yet!  And it’s all amazing, technically.  But I have also found it overwhelming, personally. 

About five days into lockdown I experienced a resurgence of grief the like of which I have only experienced  in the first year after my mum’s death.  I felt overwhelmed and exhausted and weepy.  It only lasted three days and I came out of it after a long walk with my daughter by the river near our house.  But the message was clear – I was out of balance and needed to stop running away from my fear of what was going on by burying myself in social media and time spent with others.  I needed time on my own for silence, and contemplation and connection to things that don’t talk at me.  I needed time to connect to how I feel about things – I needed to hear my own thoughts.  And so I’m going back to spending more time in my studio, and in my study, and in the labyrinth.  But the biggest thing I’m doing is spending more time in nature.  And that, more than anything, is what is making me feel able to cope with the uncertainty of the current climate.  I’m making sure those around me are staying safe and I’m taking every day one at a time.

And then today, a friend posted a photograph on Facebook that stopped me in my tracks.  It’s similar to the one at the top of this post but it was her photo of the word ‘breathe’ hung on a tree in the Wild Garden at The Barn in Banchory, Aberdeenshire.  It comes from the time when I was Writer-in-Residence there leading the Flourish wellbeing project in 2017.  Such a simple thing really – one word.  But in times of anxiety and panic and pressure, that simple instruction can be so powerful.   

That photo also answered a question that has been going round in my head ever since this outbreak started, ‘How can I help?’  I think the sense of powerlessness that this situation has brought to many of us can also be overwhelming.  Especially those that are used to taking charge of a difficult situation or being the one to make things better for others.  In my therapeutic work I am used to offering ways to enable others to help themselves, but being face to face is vital for this to be wholly satisfying and effective.  I am looking forward to the time when I can get back to offering workshops in this way. 

In the meantime I have decided to do something else.  To celebrate the end of the Flourish project, I gathered together photos of the words I hung in the trees and the poem(s) I wrote in response to each in a book entitled, Temenos 23.  (A Temenos is a sacred space or temple.)  

I have decided to  share a photo and a poem for each word on my Facebook page, Elaine Reid Writing over the coming weeks until all 23 are shared.  You may not be able to congregate in the garden and participate in workshops there at present but you can view the photos, read my response and perhaps write one of your own.  You could also use it as inspiration to find something on a walk you are able to do where ever you live and write something in response to that.  I hope you find it helpful or soothing or simply a well-spent moment or two slowing down to breathe, to enjoy the photographs and to read.

I am sending my best wishes to you all. Keep safe and do whatever it is you need to do to find the balance that works for you.