Sunday, August 29, 2010

Economy of words

As I've mentioned in a past blog, I host a weekly Salon.

Every Tuesday night, my sister, her son, my clan and occasional  guests have dinner at my house. And after dinner, we cleanse our palates with our Salon.

Typically, we choose a word, and we each write something that connects in some way to the word we've chosen.

There are no rules. So, once armed with the word, the outcome could be a piece of poetry, a short story, an observation. There's no requirement when it comes to length. To minimize self-editing, anything goes.

The words we've chosen over the course of our Tuesday night Salons have been diverse. Superpowers. Fear. Heat. Faith.

We've been doing this for years, and the words we've written about have generated a dessert that's become very sweet.

Our Tuesday night Salons are a great source of connection. Making dinner at home and writing about a word has brought each of us a bit closer together. Dinner at home combined with the brain food that Salon provides invariably results in a cheap, interesting evening.

My sister's offerings are highly anticipated. She creates vivid, forehead-smacking, raw, compelling material simply with a word as her leaping-off place.

But everything each of us writes is interesting, and occasionally we mix it up.

This past week, having not chosen a word the previous week, we used a random word finder app to choose our word for us. The app provided the word Shelter. We had a few guests, and everyone participated. We set the timer for 10 minutes, and everyone wrote whatever came to mind.

Then, each of us read what we'd written.

The exercise far exceeded everyone's expectations, and I loved how willing the group was to engage in this odd exercise.

The week before, the magic 8-ball word finder had chosen the word Powder.

My sister enjoys the tactile nature of writing long-hand, so I don't have her Powder Salon yet.

But I do have mine, and I have Logan's.

My son Logan, 14, wrote this on the Powder topic:

He was half-standing half-floating in the powder blue Mexican water. It had become somewhat dull for him. Just wading there with only small waves passing by him, almost entirely undisturbed. He was slowly pushing back and forth through the water. A bit closer to the grit of the sand, a bit closer to the ease of the waves.

This continued for nearly 20 minutes. Then, when his hands were growing weary, he turned around. The sun was now at his back, but he forgot about the sun, and water for that matter. All he cared about was the beautiful purple in front of him. It faded from light to dark within what seemed to be an inch of space. This depth seemed to rival that of the water he was drifting through.

He thought, as he wiped a briny tear from his eye, “this must be why the water is salty. This color makes people cry, giving back their minerals to the water they live in.”

Suddenly a wave flipped him over into a spiral. He was turning in the deep water. The siren call of the color pulled him 30 feet from the sandy shore.

He didn’t care. But he kept staring, his head full of adjectives and wordy poems.

And so he drifted, into oblivion.

And here's mine:

The Powder

The powder was neatly stored in the vial, like a dried tincture of possibility and curiosity.

When he found it, he thought the powder was nothing more than a remnant; a wisp of dust from the past that needed to be purged.

Then, because he had nothing better to do, he opened the lid.

The smell struck his nose like a blow from a prize fighter.

After that, he didn’t remember much.

When he woke up, he was in a different shirt, in an unknown city.

It may have been another time. His head was too muddled. He didn’t drink it all in at first.

It must have been the powder. That’s all he could think. It was his mantra.

He was a simple man, but the powder complicated everything.

He admonished himself, in his head first, and then out loud, for being too headstrong, too interested in things that were really none of his concern.

Like the powder.

Opening the lid was his first mistake.

But it wasn’t the last.

My sister's Powder Salon will be added to this community of Salon entries eventually.

As usual, I think hers was the best.

In any case, our Tuesday night Salons, each beginning with dinner and ending with an offering we've each created, have become such a bonding, interesting, creative experience.

Salon has drawn me closer to my sister. It's let me in on who my kids are, just a little bit. The exercise has made a few mental muscles a bit more elastic.

And it all begins with an economy of words.

It starts with one.