I am back to that other activity I do, teaching online. We suspended the classroom for the Holiday season, and now we begin again. I had no intention of writing here for a while, but something happened that I felt was important enough to share here. This blog was originally started as a place for me to share my own experiences about writing. What it means to me personally, and many of the things I learned from keeping a daily journal for over half of my adult life. It also gave me the opportunity to share many of the things I’d taught in my late career, as an Ad Hoc Writing Instructor at the University from which I’d graduated. Which is why I am choosing to write out this latest experience about personal writing and what it can accomplish.
At the present moment, I am taking a small group of writers through the stages of the Heroic Journey. Today we begin Stage Four, which is about the energy of the Mentor. That one who comes to help us get moving forward into our own Journey, called life. When I suspended the class for the Holidays, it was my intention to just relax and enjoy those days, but something occurred, and I found myself giving daily prompts for a Creativity Challenge that lasted for forty days. Although I knew I would have to start working on the next stage of that classroom journey, I found myself putting it off each day. Telling myself, I’d get to it later. Filling my days with images that soothed and relaxed me, and to be honest, I didn’t want to quit doing that. It was working really well. But then, one morning, I woke to a dream, one that I understood was important because it was so clear and yet, left me with all kinds of questions.
If I needed you, would you come to me,
would you come to me, for to ease my pain?
In the dream, I entered a room, and there was a woman singing these words into a microphone. She walked slowly toward me, as she sang, then tilted the mic in my direction, inviting me to sing with her.
I was both surprised and confused. Didn’t know her, this stranger, but she seemed to know me. Or, the person I used to be. The one who sang every chance she got. And although I knew the song, it hadn’t been a particular favorite, that I could remember. Yet, when she tilted the mic toward me, I found myself singing the second half of that first verse of the song, as if it were yesterday, when I did such things.
If you needed me, I would come to you,
I would swim the sea, for to ease your pain.
Woke up because I couldn’t remember the words to the rest of the song. Got up and came in here to the computer to find them. Surprised when I found the song on Youtube, sung by Don Williams (a definite favorite) and Emmy Lou Harris. I used to have a couple of his albums. I’m sure that’s where I’d heard the song before. But, although the rest of the words were vaguely familiar, they didn’t come with the simple ease of that first verse.
Which has haunted me ever since. But, until I sat down here to write about it, I couldn’t seem to connect it to anything or anyone. The moment I decided to write about it, I saw several connections. Amazing. I believe the dream is about the Mentor energy within my own person. That energy brought to life in my relationship with my father, and continued in other disguises throughout my life. He, my Dad, was the only person, until I was an adult, who told me that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. There were one or two of my high school teachers who tried to tell me I had value, but I dismissed what they whispered because the voices of my other family members were far louder and far more immediately and regularly shouting at me, that I was no more than a liar. That I couldn’t see what was right in front of me, so made it up, or exaggerated it all out of proportion. Subsequently, leading me to believe that I couldn’t trust what went on in my own head.
Well the night’s forlorn and the mornin’s born
And the mornin’s born with the lights of love
And you’ll miss sunrise if you close your eyes
And that would break my heart in two
This is the voice of my inner mentor, speaking directly to me. If I remain asleep, don’t see the light of her sunrise within me, I will not learn whatever it is I need to learn. And that would not only break her heart, but mine as well. She was calling me to this lesson, but I didn’t know that at the time. Had a feeling, but not a definable one. I found myself humming the song, in odd moments, through several days. But, when I would reach for whatever was behind it, I’d draw a blank. Until I sat to write. And that is what she really wanted me to see, to understand, to comprehend. When I pick up a pen, sit to my keyboard, I am opening that door to her energy. It makes no difference how long a time passes, writing words is the key to hearing her sage and wise voice.
If I needed you, would you come to me?
Would you come to me, for to ease my pain?
If you needed me, I would come to you
I would swim the sea for to ease your pain
Here again, is that inner voice, calling me to remember who and what I am. All that I have to offer to the world, based in my relationship with my own mental abilities and experiences. For well over thirty years, the first thing I did most mornings was to write in my journal. I was teaching myself to listen to the only individual I can ever truly know. She will swim the sea of my own confusion and my lack of knowing, help me to steady my own hand by lending hers to me, to help me up, to get me moving again. So that I might, in turn, offer it to another who might need it. For that is the purpose of the Mentor energy. To pass along whatever we have learned through living our lives.
Baby’s with me now since I showed her how
To lay her lily hand in mine
Who could ill agree she’s a sight to see
A treasure for the poor to find
All too often, I forget that I myself am the treasure within my owned existence. And a treasure has no value unless it is shared, given away freely, to anyone who would listen. When I, when we, sit to write, we begin a dialogue with our own person. Makes no difference if that dialogue is a poem, a short story, a personal essay, or the Great American Novel. All those words come from within, from our memories, imagination, personal experience, and the music we prefer. When we write, we take possession of all of those things. We create the landscape of our own journey, by engaging that mentor energy.
And don’t we need that now? When our world is being split apart by arguing voices sometimes filled with hatred and sheer nonsense? We need that voice that brings clarity to our fear and confusion. That single voice that can allow us to find and even defend whatever ground we choose to stand on.
Notes: The image is a line weave drawing done in pen and ink, several years ago.
Wow! How I LOVE this post! Love the dream, the song, your reflections – and your generosity in teaching what you know to those ready to listen. Thank you, Elizabeth. You are an inspiration. From the first journey we took together, that first April, to today, I have learned so much from you, and am humbly grateful. There are poems of mine that exist in the world, especially my Traveler Series, that never would have existed without you.
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Thank you, Sherry, but that goes both ways…
Wonderful post, rich with wisdom frankly told; and beautiful, haunting song.
Dear Elizabeth, definitely one of your best! I love it…perfect…
I journaled too for many years. Your words now help me more fully understand the purpose of that writing. I wrote mostly during horrific times when my daughter had serious problems and I felt helpless. I realize now that my morning pages were my voice within myself. I was my best friend. Thank you for this essay Elizabeth. It is not just your writing talent that I appreciate, but your wisdom too.