Custodians of Our Inner World #SOL 23/31 ~ 2021

John O’ Donahue, author, poet, philosopher, and theologian, was adopted as my guardian spirit for my March 2021 notebook. I’d read of this ritual in choosing an author or influential being as a guardian spirit for each new notebook from Austin Kleon. I thought, yes, I need the whispers of these past wisdom spirits.

Also, while this notebook is in use, I also track down the written work of the guardian spirit and do some close ponderous reading. Quite often, the language of the writer will weave its way into the written words of my own wreckage of words.

In Walking in Wonder, in which I’ve been reading in the mornings, O’ Donahue writes that, “Each one of us is the custodian of an inner world that we carry around with us” (p. 7). How lovely this is to think about. A custodian is such an important essential worker. One who keeps the property well cared for, cleaning out the dirt and residue, pruning, and shining up the valuables for the world to see. He never seems to take vacation, and I’ve always believed that one must treat the custodian with the greatest of respect, or your garbage can might not get emptied. All that junk piles up pretty quickly.

He goes on to say how within ourselves, we carry a whole harvest of lived experience. Yet, it seems like these memories just vanish if not revisited regularity. Sadly, he continues, “memory seems to be focused almost exclusively on past woundedness and hurt, some of it induced and some real.” If we can be sure to trust our custodians, perhaps she can alert us to when we need a good spring cleaning.

I wrote these lines down in my notebook:

“It’s sad that people don’t use their good memories and revisit again and again the harvest of memory that is within them, and live out of the riches of that harvest, rather than out of the poverty of their woundedness. . . You can go back within yourself to great things that have happened to you and enjoy them and allow them to shelter and bless you again” (p. 12-13).

This. I had to pause and savor for a moment.

What more reason can we have for writing? in being story-catcher of this warm harvest? Each time I reread a story I’ve captured in detail, it’s relived as if it’s happening again in my imagination and I feel lighter, my heart expands and I’m reminded of how grateful I am for the life I’ve experienced. Even more so to have it written down in my notebook – for safe keeping, and for lifting me when my heart needs lifting.

Let me share one story with you that brings a small memory back and makes me chuckle, mostly because my husband and I have no willpower. This story is in comics, which sometimes allows me to capture more than if I wrote the description with words.

There are thousands of moments to capture into our notebooks, the smallest episodes that we think don’t matter.

Until they do.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Waiting for Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s New Book and Pondering Structure SOL#16

I’m a little bit of a freak when it comes to keeping up with what my favorite authors are working on.

Okay.  I’m more of a stalker.

Regardless. . . waiting is hard work.

But, finally . . . something is coming.

Something BIG.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s new book comes out next month!  

The title?

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal:  Not Exactly A Memoir

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She is genius.

I am giddy about the unique text structure she choose to write these “nonlinear reflections and insights”  (Penguin Random House Publishers).  Unlike most personal growth, memoir type books, Amy has organized this book by subject headings such as Social Studies, Math, Music, Language Arts, etc.  The writers at Penguin Random House Publishers describe it as such:

“Not exactly a memoir, not just a collection of observations, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an exploration into the many ways we are connected on this planet and speaks to the awe, bewilderment, and poignancy of being alive.”

How can you not rush directly to Amazon and hit that dang one-click purchase button? It’s only at the pre-order state though.  It’s not coming out until August 9th.  Oh, the agony!

Her previous book, The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, is also her brain child organizational structure to use for writing, non fiction or not. She gathers all of her snippets of wisdom, quotes, observations, lists and documented happenings and hangs them on the framework of the encyclopedia.

I am drawn to this right now as I mine through my own notebooks digging for gems, not knowing what they will become.  It’s life stuff and most of it is garbage, loads of blah, blah, blah, but there are some tidbits that I’d like to do something with. Organization is the framework of how to think about our ideas.  It helps us visualize the possibilities of what our writing could be.  Writing then begins to take shape.

The teacher in me also wants to use these books as mentor texts to share with students. We are required to teach our students the standard forms/genres of writing:  narrative, non-fiction and persuasive.  However, there are creative ways to organize writing that go beyond the 5 paragraph essay for persuasion, a basic personal narrative, or a categorical nonfiction report. Within these forms of writing, we teach how to write in chronological, compare/contrast, problem/solution and cause/effect text structures.  Of course, there are a variety of plot structures for narratives, as well.  All of these must be taught as they are used under the umbrella of an entire piece of work.

But, it’s the authors that go so out of the box with unique ways to organize a book that makes reading and writing exciting.  When I discover a new structure, energy sizzles.

I headed to my book shelves to seek out other ideas for possible structures for my own writing gobbledy-gook.  Surely, I had much to learn from right here in front of me.

Here are a few I found:

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

Anna organizes her memoir type reflections at midlife into chapters that focus on a theme such as:

stuff, girlfriends, generations, solitude, expectations, and faith  

For me, these themes could each be a book, yet she is able to synthesize it all into tight chapters.  This would take tons of work for me as I am more detail oriented.

Mining my own notebooks, I think I would choose topics with more specificity, such as:

popcorn, sugar, hair, pie, walking, hips and knees, Captain Morgan, coffee and dogs

Perhaps each of these could be a vignette under a larger theme or section like:

Addictions, Wisdom, Body, Soul, Heart, Mind, Marriage

This is a possibility.  I love to think about what is possible.

The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Verlyn writes about his life in the country.  By Month.

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Love. Love. Love.

We live in seasons.  I have realized over the years, that I go through many of the same experiences every September, just as I do in February.  The book could be called, The Teaching Life, The Mother’s Life, or even The Human Life.  The chapters could be narratives, poems or reflections.

Again. . . so many possibilities with this structure.

You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor organizes her book by important keys for living a more fulfilling life.  I think about this as each chapter being a lesson learned.  And, hopefully, a narrative to detail how she learned that lesson.  What lessons have I learned by midlife?  Are there lessons that I still need to learn?  I know there are lessons I am working on every day of my life.  As I scan over my pages of writing, each entry holds a lesson.  Each story teaches us something about living on this Earth School and what it means to be human.

Would my book be lessons about teaching?  or just stuff I’ve learned along the way?

Hmmmmm. . . .

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This reminds me of  Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I know For Sure?  Could we not write a book on what we THINK we have figured out?

I had to generate a list of possible structures as well – just to have some fun in brainstorming session.

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The best teachers are other books, so I’m going to compile a good list of books to show my third graders what other authors have done to organize their books.  We can then generate our own list together.

Then, we can all dwell in the possibilities of what our writing might become.

Dreamers, we are.

Shari 🙂