Friday, 13 September 2013

River of Words

A nature hike was a beautiful way to end our week.  Leaving the city before the sun rose too high and the air got too hot, we made our way to a peaceful patch of land.  A place where we could walk amongst the aspens, anticipate what would await beyond the bend in the path, and feel peace enter our bodies with each deep inhale.  A place where we could be playful, romp with friends, and be transfixed by the little creatures we met along the way.




At the mid-way point of our hike we came to an intersection where several paths met.  It beckoned us to dump our packs, sit down in the shade and enjoy a little time in contemplation.  I brought out a book we're reading excerpts from - The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon - and read a passage to introduce our first opportunity to write out a list poem, as suggested by a writing program I found, River of Words.   

Our family has been reading passages from The Pillow Book all week.  The author, a lady-in-waiting living in Japan about 1000 years ago, writes about nature and the world that surrounds her.  Some of her revelations are surprisingly as relevant now as they were a millennia ago.  In what we've read so far, she manages to observe the simple, finer details that one hurriedly passing by might otherwise miss.

After reading a passage, we would go around the table and add our insights to the topic of her poem.  A wedding gown might be added to the list of Elegant Things; a puppy without an owner might be added to the list of Depressing Things.  It was all very impromptu and off-the-cuff...no transcribing what was said (though there are moments I wish I had), just slipping off into a dream world and sharing the first thing that came to mind.

We did something similar while on our walk in the woods.  I prepared index cards with some of the passage titles from The Pillow Book.  We picked one...Elegant Things...then went around the circle to each person to add their own thoughts.  Each child had an opportunity to share a category or topic that wasn't on the index cards, such as Things that Fall From the Sky, Flowers, Insects.  Lastly, each child was invited to pick a card, including the blank ones not used, to write their own list.  The younger ones had an adult scribe for them while the older children worked on their own. 

Now, I sit in my kitchen with a bulletin board, and the cards we used this morning are affixed to it.  I'm not sure what permanent home this bulletin board will have, but my hope is that it will be referred to often.  New ideas can be jotted down.  Lines in the poems can be rewritten, reordered, or reread.  New poems can be mined from the lists already started.  It gives us a visual cue to think about the world around us, from the most grand and magnificent to the most minute and timid.   

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