Monday, July 17, 2017

A Writing Workshop, New Writing and Women's Voices

July 11 ~ Today is my birthday. I celebrate with women writers at the IWWG Conference at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. In the morning I attend a workshop intriguingly entitled “What Kinds of Fools (or Shamans) Are We?”

Led by Lisa Freedman, who teaches creative nonfiction at the New School in New York, the workshop involves meditation, a book by a woman named Vicki Noble, feminist and shamanic healer, and free writes.

Breathe in, breathe out, Lisa instructs in the shade of an ancient oak as heavy July breezes stir. The four of us seated at a small metal table are exploring the I Ching and Tibetan Shamanism―the shaman and the fool’s journey, the yin and the yang, the broken and unbroken lines.

Humble, innocent and a bit foolish are balanced with seizing power (the experienced shaman/goddess within) to explore the task ahead: a fresh approach and new writing. As I begin this workshop, I know I’m in the groove; a compelling way to start a new year under summer skies. A vision quest.

A memoir I’ve tentatively titled A Woman Alone strikes a chord with women at the conference when I share my idea later that day over lunch. I seek a little input. What would they like to hear in a memoir like that? How about what it’s like to sleep alone joked one woman who has lived with a snoring husband for four decades.

A line from a Jane Hirschfield poem comes to mind. “We work with what we are given.”

I think of myself and I write: She lives the life no one wants to live, but which she finds many women envious―or so they tell her. Oh, not the death of a beloved husband, but this precious time to think, to write, to search for serenity without distraction and demands.
With Lisa Freedman
I think of my best friend, Paula, a woman alone, and I write about her in another workshop, "Diving Into the Wreck: Writing About Pain, Loss and Other Difficult Subjects" led by memoir author Janice Gary. (I will write about this in another blog post.)


“Listen to the sounds … the birds, the din of a not-too-distant lawnmower” … Lisa says during the opening five-minute meditation next morning. I bow to heart center and open my eyes; ponder the silver bracelet one woman wears with the word “fearless” engraved.

I’ve been drawn to this circle since his death … this community of women's voices … this voyage of discovery. (It's why I joined IWWG again this year.)

From the Motherpeace Tarot, I draw a meditating yogini … a sword represents the realm of ideas, points toward a goal. In beams of clairvoyance, the light radiates … or, at least, that’s the interpretation.

She lives alone by choice. She travels both the fool’s journey―turning handsprings―and the shaman’s, whose life experience has served her well.

She writes these words, starting with a prompt: “I want…”

I want a morning of radiant purple and pink hydrangeas and petunias that remind me of my mother. I want to feel Lily’s blond velvet muzzle, take in her smell of vanilla and wood. I want my son’s smile, the sound of his voice … his father who walks within him in spirit, intellect and grace.

And this from paper cutouts with random words and phrases Lisa has placed in a small gold bag. I reach into the bag. I ponder one phrase on the cutout I’ve drawn …” empty spaces.”

I dream of him and he climbs into the empty spaces … 

The workshop ends, the conference concludes three days after my birthday. Another year, more  ideas, a way to come back to our Women's Writing Circle with new offerings, free writes, reflections of the collective journey that is storytelling and writing. The days ahead beckon, exploration the task, wherever it might lead. Breathe in, breathe out.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Memories Of My Best Friend With Gratitude to Facebook

So many of us who write memoirs say we do so to confront our own “truths.” What are they? Are we in touch with the truth or are we in denial as one person suggested I was when I said I felt my best friend’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was wrong―all wrong.

I believe life is a lot like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey's novel set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital. Who is crazy? Who is sane? And who decides?

I spoke to my best friend Paula on the telephone this week … did she remember the name of the school where our fathers met and worked? No. Did she remember details of the day she introduced me to John at that same school? Yes. “You weren’t interested and that made him more interested … I watched his eyes light up when you were standing in front of him,” she said. We laughed with delight as only friends whose memories span over five decades can.

When we spoke last month, she told me her boyfriend “had met someone new.” She cried. Now she lives with the illusion that he visits her and that she never said he met someone new. "He loves me," she said.

Life is like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Who is crazy and who is sane? And who decides?

Perhaps, this is the definition of Alzheimer’s, with which she has been diagnosed (but I do not believe she has, nor does she) ―out of touch with reality because reality is crazy, it’s insane, it’s too much for the pure of heart to bear any longer. Now that she has been placed in a nursing home where she can rest, my friend is slowly trying to adjust to years of confusion, anxiety, emotional abuse, going off her meds, and poor diet.

And the memory returns … sitting next to Paula under a red, yellow and blue striped beach umbrella. Our books and notebooks lie on the beach towel; the blue and green Atlantic seascape beckons. I jump up. “Come on,” I say, but Paula prefers to sit quietly on the towel, jot down a few notes for the novel she works on. “You go ahead, I’ll watch,” she smiles and off I run into the icy salty water. As I bob up and down, I look back toward the shore … I see a small figure under the umbrella wearing a big-brimmed straw hat. I wave. She waves back.

She offered me shelter from the storm … every summer around July 4th ―my birthday is July 11th ―I traveled to Long Beach Island. The years passed. First with the boys, then alone …. We ate hoagies on crisp Italian rolls until she became a vegetarian … drank ice cold Cosmos until she gave up drinking, except for an occasional wine spritzer. How to describe being with a friend who loves you unconditionally? Nothing you say results in a judgment, a frown … just love and acceptance of me, of "Susie," as she has called me since we were little girls.

Summers melted one into another and she never forgot my birthday … a bouquet of pink roses the same hue as those at my wedding where she had been my matron of honor arrived on my doorstep …. A special Life magazine edition commemorating the 75thth anniversary of Gone with the Wind, my favorite movie and novel growing up ….

On July 4th I wrote this on Facebook: Many of the past July 4th holidays I spent with my best friend, Paula, at her home at the New Jersey Shore. Like many older women who have lost their way and have little to no family, she has been treated callously by a social services system; one that lacks compassion and discernment. This year she was thrown into an Alzheimer's unit against her will with what I am certain is an improper diagnosis. In the process, they have taken away her home, her car, her life. It's hard to celebrate when there is so much suffering right here in our own country.

I received a wonderful outpouring of thoughts, reflections and sympathy for Paula, and for me.

“How horrible and sad. This is my own personal fear as I age being that I have no children. What a frightening situation for this woman,” a friend posted.

Yet another Facebook friend privately messaged me with an article how many conditions can be confused with Alzheimer’s, including depression, emotional trauma and dehydration … all of which Paula suffered.

Thanks to a Facebook friend who had read my July 4th post, I was put in touch with a psychologist who knows New Jersey social services and elder abuse laws. She was crystal clear! A clarion voice of reason, of action and how best to analyze and help me examine the situation. I don’t think I will ever put social media down again as I met this woman through Facebook and after speaking to her … and then to Paula … my heart feels so much lighter and a course of how to proceed clear.

Paula is in a place where they take care of her basic needs. “There is no drama,” Paula said when I phoned her after hanging up with the woman from New Jersey. Paula doesn’t believe she has Alzheimer’s, but she is, at least for now, prepared to stay in the nursing home and get better. I wonder … last month when we spoke, she wept, was angry, pleaded with me to help her get out of there. What has changed?

I feel so sad … is this what it has come to? Living behind a curtain of denial to survive. I know other people like this, although certainly not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And who is in denial? Paula? Me?

As I spoke to Paula on the phone, she asked how I was, and how the boys were. She said she loved me and I told her I loved her. “I am so grateful to have a friend like you, so lucky to have you,” she said.

“I’m worried about you,” I said, trying to hold back the tears.

“I’m worried about you, too,” she said, “that all of this has been overwhelming for you.”

“So much worry!” she said and then we laughed.

When, I wondered, was the last time anyone was concerned that things had become too overwhelming for me?

If she wants to go someplace else, someplace near me, I will do all I can to make that happen, I told her. So, for now, I will let it go. She knows I am here to help.

“It’s nice to have choices,” she said.

"So you'll ponder it?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

Friday, June 30, 2017

May Sarton: Inspirational Memoirs and The Woman Alone

Solitude in all its myriad forms has brought May Sarton's journals into what one critic calls "the literary." Indeed, due to her strong voice and lyrical takeaways about a writer’s life, her journals offer keen insight into the art of memoir.

Since my work-in-progress memoir is about the woman aloneone who has dedicated herself to writing and realizes that in many ways her solitude fosters happiness and creativity I find myself fascinated with May Sarton’s journey of deconstructing on a day-to-day basis life’s moments large and small … weeding the garden and planting tulip bulbs ... her sixty-seventh birthday, "A perfect, still day, sunshine for a change, and an unutterably blue, pale Fra Angelico sea."

In Recovering: A Journal we're once again brought into the life of the woman alone. Last summer I wrote this blog post about Sarton's Journal of a Solitude which impressed me for its unflinching honesty and vulnerability.


I grew up in a bucolic little Pennsylvania suburb called Strafford where summer days and solitary evenings encouraged me to write in bits and pieces, here and there ... a young girl’s longings for a life of adventure and, of course, writing. My entire world waited, ready to unfold, yet I was terribly shy and unsure of my looks. Writing helped me come out of my shell and I could never envision then that someday I might learn that writing is a life force all its own, as well as a survival tool. This, of course, is Sarton’s message to her readers.

Recovering takes place in the year when Sarton turns sixty-seven. Her laments about having breast cancer and feeling like an old lady made me contemplate my own mortality since this is the birthday I soon celebrate. So, if there is one downside to this book, it is the author’s seeming fixation on aging and the precariousness of life. That said, while many memoirs tend to be “feel good” exercises, Sarton’s genius lies in her willingness to plumb the depths of her own psyche … including her depressive tendencies and how it affects relationships and writing.

As she ages, friends and writing colleagues offer companionship, along with her beloved Sheltie, Tamas. She expresses her appreciation for the grace of those moments in a world in turmoil and the anxiety of living alone. Although written almost forty years ago, Recovering is prescient and timely.

Sarton writes:
"I have always believed that it is quite useless and in a way unsanctified to wish to probe the final mystery until we arrive there. I am disturbed and do not really like the idea of the psychic who believes he or she can reach the dead and communicate with them. I feel we have to live every moment, here and now, to the full and leave it to God as to where we are bound at the very end. If there is nothing, then all the more reason to make something as beautiful as possible out of each moment, to live it to the full."

I am now reading her The House by the Sea journal. Like a good friend, Sarton greets me at the end of the day when I go upstairs to read. Her wit, her willingness to explore life’s treasures and her deep observations offer solace and refuge. Like her, my dreams of late have been filled with all the people I have known and loved and I feel as if my life is passing before me. Perhaps, that is due to the melancholy of another birthday or the languor of summer. One thing I do know is that with Lily by my side, my own home, complete with small garden, I may not be living the romantic seaside life in Maine that so influenced Sarton, but I am still writing, thanks in part to her inspirational work.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Voice in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction

What can possibly be more important than a writer cultivating an authentic voice? Nothing, really, for without voice our words remain a collection of floating pieces, thoughts and memories with no anchor. 

Who are we? Does our personality come through on the page through our language use and word choice? Can a reader say: "I know this voice. It is unique to this writer."

As one writer said after our Women’s Writing Circle "Voice Lessons" workshop this past weekend: “What I brought today was openness and anticipation. What I’m taking away is greater recognition of the importance of using my voice.”

The alchemy of creativity hums in a collaborative community of writers. It fosters confidence and clarity that voice is unique to the writer. In a rapidly changing world of turmoil, a writer’s authentic voice becomes ever more invaluable.

Tips on finding voice.
Listen to yourself because if you can't, you can't listen to others.
Dig deep into what has been silent.
Be uplifted by the creations of each other.
It is a gift to write because it wasn't that long ago there were (and still are) places where women were not allowed to do so.
Write what you are dedicated to, passionate about, and emotionally invested.
Accept what it feels like to stand in a happy place where you are validated and your voice loved. 
Perhaps, no genre better allows us to explore our voice than creative nonfiction (which includes memoir). Told in first person (‘I’) narrative, the genre offers the writer the opportunity to explore experiences and topics of significant interest, using literary devices common to the novel and the play.

In our workshop, we discussed the personal essay to honor and hone our voice. There’s a lot on the Internet about the personal essay, including this from the blog Find Your Creative Muse:

  • It is based on a personal experience in which you have gained significant meaning, insight, or learned a lesson. It can also be based on a milestone or life-altering event.
  • It is personal narrative. The writer tells the story by including dialogue, imagery, characterization, conflict, plot, and setting.
  • It is written in the first person. (“I” point-of-view).
  • It is an autobiographical story in which the writer describes an incident that resulted in some personal growth or development.
  • A personal essay is a glimpse of the writer’s life. The writer describes the personal experience using the scene-building technique, weaves a theme throughout the narrative, and makes an important point. There must be a lesson or meaning. The writer cannot just write an interesting story.
We borrowed quotes from Mary Pipher’s book Writing to Change the World as prompts for our free write. I’d like to share those for your use (with gratitude to Women’s Writing Circle author and member Flo Shore for compiling them):

Our work is about something much bigger and more important than we are. In the long run success means we secure a place in the pantheon of people who care about ideas.

Success is not about fame or ideas; it is having our ideas discussed by other people.

Metaphors are paths into something much older and deeper than we are. They are one of the most powerful ways to express the wholeness of our ideas.

Tolstoy’s definition of wealth was “the number of things we can do without.”

Long after buildings and aqueducts crumble writer’s words live on.

Writers are cultural brokers for the world of ideas.

Writers pay attention to both the internal and the external landscape.

I thank the wonderful women who attended our "Voice Lessons" workshop. I thank them for their willingness to explore their lives, their memories and their voice ... and let me share mine, including my own personal essay on the Women's March on Washington.

As one woman wrote, “I walk away with the knowledge that there is no ‘right’ voice―there are multiple voices and multiple perspectives based on time and place in life.”

Special thanks to Flo and Jan for feeding the hungry afterwards with an excellent Mediterranean repast of humus, cheeses, olives, salad, grapes, and chocolate. Brava and job well done!

What about you? Can you share an experience, a memory that offered you a chance to let your voice ring out?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Reviews, Marketing and the Love of Writing

At a writers’ meeting yesterday, we talked about book reviews, how difficult they are to come by. I hadn't gotten a review in quite some time, despite people saying they loved my book, I said.

“Some readers just don’t know how to critique, they’re not the type of person to write even one or two sentences,” one writer offered.

"Sprinkle me with stars," another laughed.

Writers, themselves, draw the line―if they don’t think the book is well-written and they couldn’t get past the first fifty pages, they’ll forgo writing a review even after promising the author they will.

“Well, can’t you give it four stars and say you found the first fifty pages spellbinding?” one writer suggested, half-joking, half serious.

The writer said, ‘no’, he felt he couldn’t and then we were back to talking about marketing and publishing in all its mind-boggling variety, herculean effort and time away from doing what we love―writing.


A story captured my attention: Yoko Ono sharing credit for “Imagine,” her husband’s masterpiece. A husband and wife collaboration recognized thirty-seven years after John Lennon’s death. Imagine that. A timeless love story, I thought …

The story struck a chord. A Portrait of Love an Honor is a collaboration between my late husband John M. Cavalieri and me … a collaboration which became public as a published work twenty-one years after my husband's death. In this guest blog post on author Kathy Pooler's Memoir Writer's Journey blog, I wrote what inspired our book.

Most creative journeys and the stories that unfold are about love, aren't they? A husband and wife, a father and son, a mother and daughter, a friend and lover ... an attempt to find redemption, a vision for a better, kinder world.

Saturday would have been my 39th wedding anniversary. Clouds and gray sky suddenly gave way to a steady rain running in rivulets down the driveway and tap, tapping on the roof, much like the weather that day.

I have written about our wedding day―there didn't seem much point to searching that memory again. Then, as I listened to the rain, one memory emerged ... one I hadn't written. I saw myself looking out the window of John’s apartment where I had spent the night. In the parking lot below, John, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, worked on the engine of his green MGB … this and our church wedding less than an hour away.

I opened the window. I think I shouted, “It’s getting late, you have to get ready!” … but he waved me off. “Don’t worry, I’ll be there,” he said. And he was and always will be.

Lily sleeping at my feet, fading peach-colored roses in a delft blue vase on the living room coffee table.  A June day with the freedom to write. Yesterday, I bought a dozen white roses in anticipation of my anniversary. I take stock, thankful that we loved each other ... had two amazing sons who steadfastly remain by my side. This is enough for any one life … any woman alone.

The writing life is a journey close to the heart. Forget the book reviews and the marketing, I tell myself. Either you love writing or you don’t. That's what matters. I have to work on another book, and gird myself again for all that comes with it. Writing must be met with resolution, but also joy!

I'd love to hear your thoughts about writing and/or the marketing journey.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Memoir Writing and Memories Then and Now

This summer marks the 7th anniversary of my memoir, Again in a Heartbeat. Would I write it today as I wrote it seven years ago? Maybe not. But on the other hand, the story holds true for it captured that journey in that time when I wrote it.

Memory is tinged with longing, nostalgia, traumatic and life-changing events. Perspectives change as we age and time etches its imprint.

For me personally, a former journalist trained to observe details and chronicle other peoples' lives, I've learned when I became the subject of my own remembrance, observation and contemplation, it is a difficult process.

The writer chronicles both the inner and the outer life ... and her own faults, fears, sadness. Solitude, reflection and moving forward on a spiritual journey ... all helped me understand memory is intricate, shape-shifting as we age.

As I think about memory and how to break through to what May Sarton calls "its rough, rocky depths," I offer thoughts from other writers about memory, along with some writing I've done in recent days.

“What could be simpler to understand than the act of people writing about what they know best, their own lives? But this apparently simple act is anything but simple, for the writer becomes, in the act of writing, both the observing subject and the object of investigation, remembrance, and contemplation.” ~ Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives

Sultry summers and shimmering autumns… two dogs you will never know, faithful companions and sources of comfort and joy. Friends who have come and gone, crises large and small, all passed through the window of time.

Love affairs dabbled in ... there had to be something to look forward to or I couldn’t go on living without you, although, of course, they weren't you.

Our little boys are men now. They travel in their father’s footsteps, quietly, silently in moments when your spirit brushes theirs with a whisper of your name­─John─and you and they become one.
“I gather together the dreams, fantasies, experiences that preoccupied me as a girl, that stay with me and appear and reappear in different shapes and forms in all my work. Without telling everything that happened, they document all that remains most vivid.” ~ Bell Hooks, author of Bone Black
One chance meeting altered the course of my life. I was twenty-six, so young, searching for romance and that one true love. I remember seeing you for the first time as if it were yesterday. But now I understand something I didn't then. Your sadness was palatable in your gentle, intelligent disposition rendered expendable by those you once idolized and who almost destroyed you.

What did we feel and why did we feel it?  I know this. My heart was open. I loved seeing myself through your eyes.

We had seventeen years. Twilight evenings of lovemaking; a blizzard that winter I was miserable and pregnant; August by the shore, the sea stretching beyond the farthest horizon toward a future never to be.
“Looking back over sixty-odd years, life is like a piece of string with knots in it, the knots being those moments that live in the mind forever, and the intervals being hazy, half-recalled times when I have a fair idea of what was happening, in a general way, but cannot be sure of dates or places or even the exact order in which events took place.” ~ George MacDonald Fraser, Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma
Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant. Your death forever changed my life, my journey ... society’s crushing expectations of the single mother, the widow … the woman alone. Widowhood has shaped my belief that out of great loss comes great abundance, if we―I―allow it. Part of me felt rearranged after you died, never to be the same.

Now ... a rose in bloom, the coo of a mourning dove, my dog’s velvet blond muzzle, a word artfully arranged here and there and read to others; something akin to satisfactory acceptance that this is life, my life, and remembering is enough.

How about you? Can you offer an experience or technique to tap into memories?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Traveling Through Ireland: Lessons in Writing and Poetry

On my recent trip to Dublin we followed in the footsteps of James Joyce’s protagonist Leopold Bloom, past townhouses with colorful blue and red doors and window boxes brimming with purple and pink petunias.

For the writer, it is pure delight to wander Ireland where the likes of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw produced plays and poetry that changed the world.

Bram Stoker, an Irishman who attended Trinity College and the author of Dracula, found in Ireland’s mists and dramatically plunging seaside cliffs, the broodingly dark mood for his classic Gothic horror novel.

Around every corner and turn, Ireland offers a learning experience and lessons in writing and poetry in a land known for its storytellers and literary legacy.

Ireland, as I came to understand during my two-week visit there, is a place that deeply moves you, whether Irish or not, whether you're a writer or not.  From its rugged coastlines to its rolling hillsides flowering with white thistle and yellow gorse bushes ... its wild daffodils blooming in profusion on chartreuse meadows ... it’s magical.

James Joyce was a risk taker. Always seeking to challenge the literary conventions of the day and find  new expression (the popular term is stream of consciousness, although there is much more to his innovative work), Joyce was both rebel and outsider. Only by being outside and looking in could the author capture Dublinindeed, Ireland―although he left in his early twenties for the continent of Europe, never to return. 
Still, as Joyce put it: “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal. 
I stopped at Sweny’s, the pharmacy Leopold Bloom frequented in Ulysses, tucked away on a narrow street near trendy bars and restaurants. It remains exactly as Joyce described it, although it is now a little museum of sorts, run by a nonprofit, near fashionable Merrion Square in Georgian Dublin, where writers and poets gathered during the Irish literary revival of the early 20th century.

At Sweny's, featuring sepia-toned photographs of Joyce, floppy brimmed hats worn by the ladies of the era, medicine jars, lemon-scented soap and second-hand books, daily readings by volunteers and aficionados of Joyce keep his words alive.
Writers Museum of Ireland

As writers we break barriers, challenge norms and take risks with how we craft and present our stories. Our voice, our take on the world and the memories we write are unique and, hopefully, universal. We play with point of view, often merging fiction and memory with imagination as we move from one character's perspective to the next. The people we have known and loved, detested and admired, take on a life of their own.

Joyce, along with Nobel Prize winner, the Irish poet WB Yeats, combined memoir and fiction … drawing from personal experience, the people they knew and the defining events of their lives and moments in Irish history.
Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square

Yeats wrote often about the supernatural, the fairies that came to him in dreams and his quest to understand the nature of life and death. In one of his most famous poems "The Wild Swans at Coole", he sees them and the Irish countryside again:

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

Dingle Penisula
As for women, one often stands out during the Irish literary revival. Her name is Lady Augusta Gregory. A poet in her own right and a wealthy widow, she mentored Yeats and other artists of the day, who gathered at her country estate at Coole Park in County Galway. Her importance as a purveyor of the arts cannot be underestimated.

She wrote of marriage:

“the rainbow-color honeymoon
Fades in dull tints of common life
With misty cares and clouds of strife” …

(The history of women in Ireland is one fraught with struggle and a lack of equal rights … a story for another day.)

We visited with writer Deirdre Ni Chinneide who offers spiritual retreats in Ireland and America. She lives on Inis Mor. “Let the land speak to you … and leave something of yourself behind,” she suggested to our group of travelers.
Celtic ruins on Inis Mor

Inis Mor, which means ‘the largest island’ in Irish, is part of the Aran Islands and is steeped in Celtic heritage. It was here monks escaped persecution in the 7th and 8th centuries. Sheep, cows, horses, stone barns and Celtic ruins draw in the traveler, provide moments of deep reflection for the writer in the isolation that is Inis Mor.

Ultimately, this is the great secret of travel. You can’t help but leave something of yourself behind.
Travel pulls you in and you feel the connectedness of us all. As a writer, a poet, an artist, you find new material, are exposed to new ways of writing and creating.

You have passed this way and may never come again. So, if you're like me, you leave a piece of yourself there, but you also take with you a memory, a moment, a realization. You craft this into a story, a poem, a blog post, a way to live and transverse the world and share through the power of words.

NOTE: This tour of Ireland was organized by Road Scholar.

How about you? Can you share a memory of a journey that touched and moved you and helped you craft a story or poem or find a new way of looking at the world?