What an impossible task this last prompt has set up for me! This journey has been saturated with amazing moments, moments of clarity, moments of despair, moments of joy, moments of melancholy, moments of connection. What stands out, then? What would I wish to have known at the start? Let me remember the start.
I started this fellowship not really certain where I belonged, not feeling at home. I was confident in only one thing: that I needed to continue the exploration of healing and storytelling I’d begun, and that the connections I felt in storytelling were auguring wisdom and experiences to be pursued with resolve. But I had no idea that the pursuit would shift directions in the ways that it has. I am glad that I was unaware of that; I really can’t think of anything I’d like to have foresight of, because it would have changed everything.
Now that I am back from my last leg of this journey—a trip that took me to an island in the Puget Sound— I am grateful to have learned a new form that might help me give readers a sense of the flow, the churn, the rhythms of the paths I’ve taken. One of my teachers shared with us a writing exercise based on poet Joe Brainard’s book-length prose poem, I Remember. The exercise is this: start writing sentences where each one begins “I remember (ed)...”
I did the exercise, and as I looked it over I realized how many of the lines were really about my experiences as a Bush Fellow. Many of the lines evoked the mysterious yet grounding feeling you get when you encounter new knowledge that makes you feel more yourself. It’s like you remembered the name of a childhood friend, or the favorite food of a long-lost relative is served by a new friend, and there you are, feeling at home wherever you are standing. Long-lost memories flood your brain. You can’t remember how you could have forgotten, or how you could have lived so long without actively trying to remember that friend’s face, or learn how to cook that dish, or re-learn that elemental thing that contributed to your sense of well-being. And the wonder and possibility of the world expands. Here’s a selection of what I wrote on my list of remembrances that reflect my learning and evolution as a Bush Fellow.
I remember saying thank you so many times, without any sense of fatigue.
I remember taking the only empty seat on the train or bus and having the best conversations with strangers.
I remembered how whole I feel in nature.
I remembered generosity pops up in unexpected places.
I remembered how tight my jaw had become.
I remembered how much I held my breath.
I remembered my tears and those of others.
I remembered to listen more, speak less.
I remembered writing feels like breathing.
I remembered the difference between synchronicity and fatalism.
I remembered how courageous vulnerability is.
I remember how necessary laughter is.
I remember never feeling alone.
I remember the moment I knew I couldn’t do this fellowship ‘incorrectly.’
I remembered playing, just to play.
I remembered to ask for help. A lot.
I remembered to bring pen and paper everywhere I go. Just in case. The muses prefer a stealth approach.
I remembered lost connections.
I remembered time is infinite even though life is short.
I remembered persistence does not necessitate exhaustion.
I remembered to stop waiting for the perfect time.
I remembered the sparkle of a new friend’s hug.
I remember writing so fast my keyboard couldn't’ keep up with my fingers.
I remember allowing the butterflies in my stomach to have free rein. They are meant to fly. They have wings.
I remembered a touch of grace.
I remembered hopscotch and jump rope rhymes I thought I would never recover in my memory.
I remembered to cry when my chest got tight.
I remembered to stop looking for miracles. Miracles never come when they’re hunted down. They only come when you’re quiet.
I remember reading for the sheer pleasure of it.
I remember how we are all our stories.
I remember feeling the strain of transformation.
I remember finding inspiration in the smallest things, the shortest sentences, the briefest glimpses of images.
I remember long talks on long walks on long nights that changed my perspective even though the new thoughts felt as fixed as the constellations above our heads.
I remembered to mourn what is mine to mourn, and celebrate what is mine to celebrate.
I remember feeling changes and being delighted that not all of them were volatile or unexpected or scary.
I remember so many gifts, so freely given.
I remember the magic of the Minnesota 8.
I remembered to trust myself to remember everything.