For the next few weeks, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s weeklong marathon of writing workshops, Write Around the World. This is one way we are celebrating the AWA-certified workshop leaders & writers who joined together to raise money in support of AWA. Thank you to those who shared their voices in each workshop and especially to those who have offered their words to be shared in this space. If you’re inspired by our work and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!
Writing from Martha K.S. Patrick’s Workshops in Bodrum, Turkey
Sharpen my elbows
I was a good girl. The phrase ‘I was brung up right’ passes through my mind but committing it to paper makes me shudder as my grammar school education compels me to write grammatically correct phrases. I will surely be struck by lightening if I don’t. I respected my elders, did my homework, stopped at red lights, kept my boyfriends at arms’ length until at least the 6th date. I was polite to those for whom I had no respect, didn’t answer back, worked 10 hours if asked to work 8 and was the first in and last out of the office. The Protestant Work Ethic could have been coined for me alone. I got As, not Cs and never failed an exam, Dinner was always freshly cooked even if Marks and Spencer could do it better and I didn’t taste a take-away until I had clocked up 4 decades. I stood in line, never jumped a queue and smiled when I wanted to spit. I was a good girl.
Was – so watch out! As my days of being fifty something run out I have decided to go into my 7th decade with a new steely resolve. I have run my tongue over the whetstone and if I don’t like what I see, I will say. My elbows are growing pointed steel protrusions; if you push in front of me you will feel them between your ribs. My eyes are narrowing to needles that will lance through your misdemeanours and not glance away. My claws are out; there will be no more polite reminders couched in ambiguous terms. A pair of steel tipped boots will swish me through folks who deserve no kind regard. I am sharpening my senses; my coffee smells of its native Columbia, my eyes catch every shadow under the olive tree, my ears pick up the treble in the cockerel’s morning screech. The first sip of pomegranate juice thrills with Autumn promise and my fingers find solace in the downy fur of my faithful dog.
I shall collect and shore up what is left of the good girl and twist her through the pencil sharpener of ruthless resolve. Anything left hanging around can be sorted with expensive underwear.
TO SHARPEN MINDS TO SERVE FREEDOM, PEACE AND PROSPERİTY ALL OVER THE WORLD
A great leader was once asked to declare his followers which of the present philosophical-political stands was to be taken. “Are we going to go capitalist or socialist or communist? Let us label ourselves.”
That great leader replied to them by drawing their attention to the unending character of changes following no definite rules or path. He emphasized that an idea which might have served well in one society could be desastrous in another. “Therefore, we should search for our own realities within our own society and should not either imitate others or have others imitate us” said he. He warned that doctrines are bound to loose their validity in time.
That reminds me the famous Anatolian Turkish poet-philosopher Yunus Emre’s comparing the sheria, the İslamic religious moral and legal rules to a ship and the reality it is supposed to govern to an ocean; no matter how strong the materials used in its construction, they are bound to be worn out as the waves beat them.
He also warned that for a society to be able to realize that way of thought and action individuals should be educated so as to be “thinking beings”. “Unless individuals are thinking beings” he emphaiszed, “societies can be led to good or to evil by anyone. That is why we start our work from the towns and villages, that is, from individuals.”
This great leader served during all his life for this stand which, he knew would allow, not only his people but the whole humanity to live in freedom, peace and prosperity.
He emphasized that humanity constitutes a body and nations its organs and that when one element of this body does not feel well it can not be well as a whole.
Therefore wisdom requires to work not only to one’s own people’s and country’s freedom, peace and prosperity but to those of the whole World. To be able to work for “peace at home and peace in the world”, individuals should be so educated as to be “world citizen” each, free from hatred, jelaousy and greed.
This great leader is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the leader of the Turkish War for Independence and the founder of the Turkish Republic.
October 15, 2017, is the 90th anniversary of his reading the SPEECH, the work in which he gave the account of all his leadership actions, presenting at the same time all the documents of all his deeds.
I would like to make a proposal to the effect of inviting the Writing Groups everywhere to sharpen minds and work for freedom, peace and prosperity of all humanity!
With No Extraordinary Power . . . .
Many heroes – the ones in comic books or action films at least – are depicted as having some extraordinary power: x-ray vision; superhuman strength (from adrenalin, or spinach in Popeye’s case); the ability to fly, weave webs, climb up walls, do kung fu moves that disarm.
The powers of everyday heroes may not seem so dramatic:
the power of listening and really hearing
the ability to encourage people to listen to one another
a kind way of diffusing difficult situations
intuition about what is going on underneath
willingness to show vulnerablity, to admit when have been wrong
strength to say no
openness to asking others for help.
However, in such “not extraordinary powers” can be found hope for mankind.
In the aftermath of the 2001 attack on the twin towers, my sister walked 100 blocks to get a train out of New York City. The story she kept telling was the sight of 100s of people lining up to donate blood – something specific they could do in the midst of chaos.
In July 2017, two young boys and nine members of their family were caught in a riptide off a Florida beach; they were rescued by more than 80 strangers on the beach who formed a human chain to reach them. Their heroism arose from their unwillingness to have a tradgedy occur when together, only together, they could improvise and do something extraordinary.
Parker Palmer in the 2014 edition of his “Healing the Heart of Democracy” writes of three important differences in the way people understand power: some believe in the power of ideas and the human heart (as different from those who see power coming only from from wealth, status, positions of leadership); some believe in the power of ordinary people working alone and with others to follow their hearts and create communıty (in contrast to those who find the ordinary people powerless and following your heart without sense); some believe in the power of small, slow processes of change (as distinct from those who see power only in large-scale results.)
I, with Parker Palmer, the group on the beach in Florida, and those donating blood on 9-11, find hope and action and purposefulness with Adrienne Rich. “I have cast my lot with those who, perversely, age after age, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”
Age after age. Step by step. Yavaş yavaş.
—Martha K.S. Patrick
Pencil, saw, chisel, plane and her resolve. All were beautifully sharp.
Yenka looked at the array of tools laid out before her. This was an important task and proper preparation, both of the implements and most importantly her own mind, were crucial.
She had read that the stake itself must be from a hardwood tree, preferably hazel. She supposed this was all logical. Hazel in the very way it grows, the way it will burst into life when previously all looked dead, had a spiritual indeed magic quality.
She refused to allow herself to think about the crowning act of destruction that this spiritual implement was going to ultimately perform. That enjoyment was going to be too delicious to blunt now. She must enjoy each stage, one by one. And anyway, whilst the just death of her nearly ex lover was some way off, it was just as certain as her next pounding heartbeat.
First, she cut the hazel staff to length. About one and a half metres she decided: It would allow her to still be in a standing position as it passed through his heart and into the soft forest earth below.
For a second she was distracted to think about the way they would find him there, perhaps she could set up camp nearby to watch the discovery of the body she had not done that before.
Yenka returned to the task in hand.
The freshly sharpened saw worked well, and after less than a minute, she had the length she needed.
With precision she used the pencil to mark the cuts she would make to get the tip as precise as possible, then set feverishly to work with saw plane and chisel until she was completely satisfied.
He followed her into the forest without any difficulty at all, his mind overwhelmed by his one, selfish, single minded expectations.
Yenka in perhaps one nanosecond of doubt, hoped she could remember the tree behind which she had hidden her weapon. She broke into a run, full of giggles. He started running after her, faster and faster until…… he tripped on a tree root and fell, motionless.
A familiar tune played in that forest. She found it perfectly logical.
It got louder and more insistent, as she picked up the stake.
Holding it high she admired the carefully worked tip. And then she fell!
She felt suddenly cold, bumped her head, and automatically reached for the phone on the bedside cabinet, to switch off the alarm.
Confused, her mind turned to the 8:15 to town, and another day at the confounded office.