Bee Sting: A sense memory

Each summer, I try something new to spark my creative flow.

Last year, I attended a weeklong writing workshop on Star Island, New Hampshire. This year, I attended the Creative Joy Retreat with Jennifer Louden, Marianne Elliot and Tracy Clark. (It was wonderful and if they do it again, I recommend you go!)

I thought I’d share with you a variation on one of the writing exercises that Jen offered. Perhaps you’d like to try it yourself.

First, recall ten moments in your life when you’ve felt the flow of Creative Joy. For me, these moments fell into three distinct themes: times when I was on stage, teaching; times when I was dancing and times when I was blended into the flow of the natural world.

Next, choose one moment and describe it, beginning with the words “I am” and responding to the following prompts as you work.

The prompts:

  • Where are you?
  • How old are you?
  • What’s coming toward you?
  • What does it smell like?
  • What does it sound like?
  • What is before you?
  • To your right?
  • To your left?
  • What is behind you?

(These prompts were borrowed from Linda Barry. Jen spoke them as we wrote, interrupting and reorienting the flow of words.)

Where are you?

I am
riding my bicycle on a packed dirt path between trees
To my right, a lake is shimmering.

I am forty-five years ago.
The day is hot, damp and still, but I make my own breeze out of speed;

I am not wearing a shirt, my feet are bare, pressing hard on black rubber pedals. I am here in the heat, the damp the speed;
embedded into the buzz, chirp, splash, gurgle, rustle, snap:

I am this tree, this cricket, this bird;
these sun-baked rocks, the lichen crisping.

And the air thick with lake scent and green;
And the tang of chlorophyll,
And the bounce of moss pillows
And the crunch of last year’s leaves and pine needles beneath my wheels.

What is coming toward you?
A marking.
But I don’t know this yet.

I am following a thread
toward a tunnel of trees,
following light;

And the tweet, chirp, hiss,
And the snap, crack, slurp,
And the gulp, whizz, whirr.

To my right, the lake;
And the lap lap lap of the waves;
And the dragonflies skimming;
And the crickets’ buzz;
And the wide, unspooling of my breath.

To my left, the forest and the cabins where we sleep.
To my back, soaring pines, their needles whisper,
sifted one against the other by the hand of a breeze.

I release the handlebars,
extend my arms in a wild, wide embrace.
And the wind rushes over my skin;
And the pulse rises fresh from the earth;
And the thwack thwack thwack of the wheels;
And my feet pressing black rubber treads.

And then and then and then
A bee buzzes up from behind,
grazes my shoulder and turns,
looping back, it strikes.

Fire slices through me;
rings out out out,
waves of heat, hurt and rage.
Gong-struck, I stop;
plant my feet upon the earth.

And the soil is cool and dry;
And the world, shimmering;
And this white-hot kiss,
right between the eyes.


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