The Vantage Point

The Vantage Point
The Vantage Point

If tired of trees I seek again mankind,
Well I know where to hie me–in the dawn,
To a slope where the cattle keep the lawn.
There amid lolling juniper reclined,
Myself unseen, I see in white defined
Far off the homes of men, and farther still,
The graves of men on an opposing hill,
Living or dead, whichever are to mind.

And if by noon I have too much of these,
I have but to turn on my arm, and lo,
The sun-burned hillside sets my face aglow,
My breathing shakes the bluet like a breeze,
I smell the earth, I smell the bruisèd plant,
I look into the crater of the ant.

Robert Frost

Acquainted With the Night

Acquainted With The Night
Acquainted With The Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost

There’s a Certain Slant of Light

There's a Certain Slant of Light
There’s a Certain Slant of Light

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are

None may teach it – Any
‘Tis the Seal Despair
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air

When it comes, the Landscape listens
Shadows – hold their breath
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death

Emily Dickinson

You Come Too

The Pasture
The Pasture

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.

Robert Frost

For Once, Then, Something

For Once, Then Something
For Once, Then, Something

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
My myself in the summer heaven, godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Robert Frost

Switching Gender

Exercise: Write a page in first person, assuming the voice of someone of the opposite sex.

Hello Grandma
I feel the cool Autumn breeze on my face and arms as it makes my skirt dance across my knees. It is grandma, of course, giving me a kiss “hello”. She always made these woods come alive with her stories of the wind fairies – and though mom said she was gone now, I know she is actually here in these woods.  Her presence is particularly strong as I near the edge of the woods as it spilled into the shore of the lake.  I can smell her fragrance emanating from the leaves on the trees as they sway in the breeze all around me.  I hear her lyrical voice echo from the waves as they sweep against the shore and carry in the wind all around me.  I see her smile reflected as the sunlight glitters across the lakes’ surface.

Yes, grandma – I hear you – I’m fine…

Ways to Begin a Story

Exercise:  Open a story in the following ways

  1. with a generalization
  2. with a description of a person
  3. with a narrative summary
  4. with dialogue
  5. with several characters but no dialogue
  6. with a setting and only one character
  7. with a reminiscent narrator

The Lake’s Breath

Sarah believed that everything in the universe was connected.  It was only natural that the rhythm of the lake’s waves against her ankles was in sync with the movement of the clouds in her sight.

Description of a Person
Sarah leaned back against the bank of the lake.  Her legs partially immersed in the water that was slowly lapping the shore in rhythmic waves.  She had a relaxed and far away look in her eyes as she gazed up at the clouds.

Narrative Summary
As I laid back against the bank of the lake, a sudden awareness crept into my mind.  I sensed the connectiveness of the universe as the waves that gently washed against my ankles seemed to keep rhythm with the movement of the clouds directly above me.

Do you see that Dylan?  See what Sarah?  The clouds are moving in rhythm with the lake.  No Sarah, I don’t see that – but watch how many skips I get out of this pebble.

Several Characters but no Dialogue
Dylan, Christopher, and Alex scampered excitedly about the shore of the lake looking for the perfect pebble to skip across the water.  Meanwhile, Sarah leaned back with her ankles in the water – deep in quiet contemplation, thinking it remarkable that the waves against her ankles were in sync with the movement of the clouds above her.

A Setting and Only One Character
Alone with her thoughts at last, Sarah leaned back against the bank of the lake letting the slow moving water wash over her extended legs.  She could feel the weight of yesterday start to fade away with each wave of water that rushed over her skin. As she started to relax and gaze up at the clouds above her, it occurred to her that the movement of the waves and the clouds seemed to be in sync.

A Reminiscent Narrator
I can remember vividly the day I made the connection.  I was lying against the bank of Goodyear lake on a typical Autumn day.  I had my legs dipping in the water and felt the cool waves lap against my skin.  Almost fully relaxed and just as my eyes were about to close, the movement of the clouds caught my attention – or actually it was the sensation that the movement of the clouds were in sync with the rhythm of the waves against my legs.

Begin a Story with a “Given” First Line

Exercise: Begin a story with this line: Where were you last night?

The Last Night
Where were you last night?  That’s what Mark asked, but what he really wanted to know is why I didn’t come to the hospital.  After all, it was our grandfather who was rushed to the emergency room last night.  I got the first call from my sister, then from my brother – but, I couldn’t bring myself to go.  It was just too soon to go back into that hospital.

Pairs of Beginning Sentences

Exercise: Write pairs of beginning sentences – e.g., birth and death,  spring and summer, etc

Spring/Summer Pair

The Awakening
It still amazes me to see those flowers bloom as if awakening from a deep sleep.

The Refresh
After enduring another scorching hot Arizona day, a cool dip in his pool was all he could think about.

Birth/Death Pair

With a Breath
He was too small and delicate in my arms to be real, but then I felt his breath.

Voices Never Heard
Her name was Sarah or would have been.