January 24, 2018

Sanity and Spirit, Finding Your Lupine

Guest Post

Chris Abbate

Photo by Sharon Penn

In his book, The Story of Your Life: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography, Dan Wakefield provides what he calls a “step-by-step approach to exploring your past and understanding your present,” including excerpts from what workshop participants have written. Bill Finger has used this approach in leading workshops at his church and among men’s gatherings. In evaluations, participants have said things like, “inspiring and joyful… I loved hearing what people wrote. I liked that we didn’t critique but just listened.” Finger is scheduled to lead a similar class at the Five Points Center for Active Adults, Raleigh NC (May), and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, N.C. State University (October). Chris Abbate, who participated in a 2016 workshop led by Finger, wrote about his mother, Mass, poetry, and lupine, a good example of how reflecting on the past can illuminate the present. A portion of what he wrote follows in this guest post.

 

The highway to work each August was purple. A huge purple field on the east side of the highway, that in the morning, a big orange sun would rise over and create a purple haze. It sparked something deep within my spirit. It gave me an awareness I hadn’t had before. It was new life. [Read more…]

The Power of Telling Our Stories

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.
Photo by Georgia Springer

Mary Karr, in her book The Art of Memoir, says, “In a great memoir, some aspect of the writer’s struggle for self often serves as the book’s organizing principle, and the narrator’s battle to become whole rages over the book’s trajectory.”

In writing my memoir, The Crane Dance, I did struggle to understand my core identity. As the drafts unfolded and finally formed a coherent arc, my narrator’s battle did in fact help me “to become whole.”

The writer and memoirist Joan Didion says, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live… We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of narrative line upon disparate images.”

In The Crane Dance, disparate images bounced about from India to Boston, then to North Carolina, back to Mississippi, to Atlanta and Mendocino, Cairo to Stonehenge, the beach to the mountains, then finally back to Jabalpur, with home in Raleigh the center of this crazy journey. What drew the line straight and true, finally, was the journey of the heart, determined to find the right compass coordinates for the larger story. [Read more…]

On Writing and Memory

Bill as a boy, at his deskA memoir, after all, hinges on memory. What do I recall and why? What do I make of the themes in my life? How did my choices lead to inevitable or perhaps surprising outcomes? How much did circumstances limit my options compared to the degree of courage or vision I exercised? What about the battles of nature and nurture, including social norms in my time and place? What is the best way to engage in memory – for me, for you, for the world?

I’ve been pondering all of these questions and more as I prepare to launch my memoir. Focusing on midlife transformation in The Crane Dance provided a time parameter, but flashbacks to my childhood cried for attention, as did “bookend” trips to India as a 22-year old Peace Corp volunteer and a return to my India family at age 56. [Read more…]