I walk through my world quickly, always thinking about the next task, my attention darting everywhere. But a writing exercise yesterday changed my perspective. As the first part of a workshop with nature writer Ceiridwyn (CARE-i-dwyn) Terrill, she blindfolded us and had us walk through a woodsy course behind the library with only a string to follow.
I was first in line. Ceiridwyn led me over a protruding root to the flat part of the trail, then let go. It seemed easy at first, like walking down the hallway at night, but then I ran into this tree. A smooth-barked alder, it seemed to mark the end of the course. “Is this the end?” I hollered. “No,” came the reply. “Figure it out.” I could hear the other writers chattering and laughing up above the trail, but my world had shrunk to one thing: find the path. Straight ahead I felt tree and shrubs, probably honeysuckle or salal. To the left, under the string, seemed to be nothing but open air. I couldn’t move unless I went under the string, but would I fall? I had no choice. Dorothy, the next writer in line, was coming, waiting for me to find the way for both of us. I went under the string and found more path.
Without being able to see the sky and the trail, it was hard to keep my balance. I walked with tiny steps, unlike my usual strides, until I ran into another tree, broad enough to hug, its bark rough against my hands and arms as I felt around it and determined that the string ended there. Or did it? Dorothy insisted she felt more string; we had to go on. No, I argued, this was the end. Blindfolded, neither one of us could be sure. Our world had shrunk to this tiny place on the path, to this tree and this string. Nothing else mattered.
When we were allowed to remove our blindfolds, we discovered that this was indeed the end of the course and Dorothy had felt a loop of string that went nowhere.We hadn’t actually walked very far.
Blindfolded, we depended on each other and on that little bit of string. We could not let our minds fly all over the place; we had to concentrate on moving forward and not falling down.
I don’t want to be blindfolded again. I hate that helpless feeling. I hate having to ask for help. I hate having to consult with other people before pushing ahead on my own. But I think there are many lessons to be learned here. Sometimes you have to ask for help, to trust other people, and sometimes you have to do just one thing, take one tiny step at a time.
(I’d offer photos, but I couldn’t see!)
Ceiridwyn will be my guest on the Writers on Writing radio show on KCUP 1230 am Aug. 29 at 8 a.m. If you can’t hear it live, you will be able to hear it later that day at KCUP.net and at writersonwritingradio.com. She will also be our guest author at the Nye Beach Writers Series on Saturday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m., at the Newport Visual Arts Center. I’m reading her latest book, Part Wild, about life with a wolfdog, and it’s fabulous. For more about Ceiridwyn Terrill, visit her website.