Can Dogs Laugh? and other burning questions

I spent yesterday at the beautiful Sitka Center for Art and Ecology north of Lincoln City. What a gorgeous place, all trees, grass and wood-shingled buildings, paintings and sculptures everywhere, a stunning view of the ocean, and profound quiet. I can see why creative people apply for residencies there.

I was there with 29 other fans to attend a writing workshop taught by Brian Doyle, author and editor of Portland Magazine. If you have never read his work, please look him up and read some. It will be good for your soul. His most recent book is Mink River. As he puts it, “I committed a novel.” It’s a masterful work but a little bit tough, especially at the beginning, so you might want to start your Doyle explorations with something else.

Meanwhile . . . Doyle kept insisting that he is not a teacher and cannot teach people to write. What he did instead was help us find story starters in our own minds and experiences. We didn’t have to share what we wrote; they were for us to keep and “take for a walk” later when we went back to our computers.

One of many exercises had us asking “what if” questions. I’d like to share a few of mine and invite you to come up with your own. Let yourself be crazy. Write down whatever comes to mind.

So, can dogs laugh?

What if we all stopped wearing clothes?
If the big tree in my back yards could talk, what would it say?
What if paper was food?
What if we sang instead of talking?
What if my family all lived in one big building? Who would cook?
What if God showed up right here, right now?

It’s fun. Give it a try. You don’t have to answer these questions, but you might.

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