I am glad that I have a network of fellow teacher-writers who remind me of the importance of feeding the writer. Writing teachers who feed their own need and passion for writing help build stronger, more impassioned writers in their students. Thankfully, the Morehead Writing Project, a division of the National Writing Project, helps me remember this. These teachers inspire me to write more for myself, which in turn leads me to write more with my students and encourages me to build them up as writers as well.
So since I’ve been thinking about my NWP peeps, I decided to share a piece that I wrote during the Morehead Writing Project Summer Institute in 2011. It focuses on a memory from my childhood and originates from the writing prompt below. I hope you enjoy.
The trees were mighty above me, outstretched arms aiming for the sky, caressing the clouds with pointed fingertips. We waded through the tide of brittle leaves without picking up our feet, shuffling and kicking as they resisted against our shins like ice-crusted snow. Prickly brown leaves poked at my ankles, forcing their way into the space between the hem of my jeans and the tops of my shoes.
The woods around me murmured, whispering that I was home.
As the literal distance between our parents and us grew, so did our anticipation. We flew up and down the steep hills—sometimes running, other times slipping and sliding—my cousins and I, bobbing between thick tree trunks without stopping until we reached the ledge that was our playground. The change underfoot signaled our arrival, no longer the malleable earth but the definite substance of rock beneath us. We dared not approach from the bottom, fearing whatever creatures might be nesting in the dark recesses of the fang of stone protruding from the mountain’s flesh. Instead, we came bumbling down toward the precipice at top speed. Our palms skinned against tree trunks as we grasped for a stronghold to keep us back from the cliff’s edge, human pinballs bouncing bumper to bumper. At the last possible breathless second, we slowed our stumbling feet.
That rock outcropping was our swing set, our slide, our merry-go-round in an ancient woodland of virgin timber.
If only more children could know its wonders.
But we protected, cherished, coveted our hiding place, our home away from home. Our silent secret was as safe as the security it offered. Others had been there, worked there, even mined there before us, but the majesties belonged to just us three.
Now, years later, the mine of my youthful whimsy has been excavated and depleted. I creep toward the edge of the ledge, take a deep breath, and dare to peek down at the mossy mound of earth beneath me. What I once named as fear, I now call comfort.