Goodbye & Thank You!
Green Windows has retired, after twelve years!
Green Windows held a Retirement Celebration on June 28, 2020. The evening honored the community that we’ve built over the past twelve years and acknowledged Peggy’s creative guidance and nurturing of our space together.
Below are Peggy’s goodbye remarks, partly from her introduction to Book.Ends, and below that, reflections and goodbyes from members of Green Windows’ community.
Firstly, there are so many people to thank for the last twelve years!
My own last words are here are an excerpt from my introduction to Book.Ends:
After writing in workshops that use the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method since 2004, I realized, in 2006, that the AWA method was a perfect partner for my passion of bringing very different people together, safely and as equals, purposefully with care and intention. In 2007 I was certified as an AWA facilitator. In 2008, I started Green Windows and joined Intersection for the Arts as one of their incubator programs. And in the last twelve years, I’ve facilitated workshops in community colleges, youth centers, schools, community centers, affordable housing complexes, museums, libraries, juvenile halls, nonprofit retreats and for the general public. In these workshops I’ve had teens and seniors, students and teachers, homeless and housed, people with and without degrees and from different corners of Oakland. In 2009, I started a monthly drop-in workshop, sliding scale, finding a perfect host and partner in The Rock Paper Scissors Collective. And with this workshop, I drew my vast network together and people who would not otherwise cross paths wrote together, safely, as equals, each encouraged to be true to their own voice.
I’ve only skimmed the surface of what Green Windows has done. I haven’t mentioned the dozens of people who have supported the work in various ways (thank you), or the mentors and mentees who make the work not a paper but a circle. The books, blogs and articles. Twelve years of words given and received.
On March 24, 2020, we had the 127th and last monthly workshop. I am ready to shift my energies while deeply grateful for all this time with your words and seeing you listen to and affect each other. And deeply grateful that we made it, together, to this moment, sheltering in place from a pandemic and writing online. Twelve years brought us here, so profoundly needing each other and needing to write with each other that it feels fated. We wrote ourselves to this moment to have community while isolated and surrounded by tragedy and insecurity. Fate bewilders me; I would have never even known to ask for this blessing. And I am grateful.
Listen. When I write that I am grateful for this community, I am talking about you. You. Twelve years came to this moment with you all in a Zoom room. And I will leave the room, the moment, the dozen years, with an understanding of people and of words that I did not have before, that I need to navigate the gloomy foggy future. I thank you.
And I invite you. I invite you to continue the work. Each morning with your candle, over coffee six feet apart, while walking along the beach, in your dreams, in a secret notebook, I invite you to continue the work of being true to yourselves and of letting the choosing of words, the choosing of images, the choosing of characters, the choosing of plot, the respect of your own rhythms, your own voices, your own language, your own stepping stones into phrases, letting them help you to see what the truths are in yourselves, and by listening for what you like, on the beach, over coffee, in the zoom meeting, to see what the truths are that others’ offer you. I invite you to continue the work. You do not need me, or Green Windows to do it. I believe in you. I believe in your words and, when you let them, the truths they carry for you.
- Peggy Simmons
Green Windows: Art of Interchange
Below are participants’ answers to the following questions:
“How will Green Windows live on? How do you bring what you have learned, experienced and created with GW into your life and the world? Consider your artistic practice, sense of community, how we relate to each other, and how you see the world around you.”
My view of the world has expanded from what I consider a creative collaboration with other people, their writing styles, backgrounds, points of view. Careful, close listening skills, appreciation for words and phrasing, intended communication and subtle messages - all these attributes have been enhanced in myself and I dare say everyone else who has been part of Green Windows.
I've never talked to anyone who has been to a Green Windows workshop who didn't get some kind of deepened connection - to writing and or community and or poets... the world. I've been to many a writing workshop - Green Windows had an accessibility and a spaciousness I didn't get other places. Green Windows is the only AWA based writing facilitation I've participated in that never left poor folks behind.
Green windows has helped me be more authentically me and just show up as myself. It has also encouraged my writing voice. I'll be forever grateful to Peggy and Green Windows.
I will always keep writing and utilizing my listening skills to appreciate other people's writing and to develop my own. I really appreciate the openness of Green Windows and the ability to share anything and everything. It's like a makerspace, and this is the mindset I will carry with me.
I will continue to write with and be in community with the people I’ve met in Green windows. I will continue to use the AWA method when I write with others and incorporate everything I’ve learned into my writing practice. It’s hard to say how GW has influenced how I see and relate to people as it has been so fundamental in my growth but I’m sure it has opened my mind to different perspectives, seeing more of our shared humanity.
Compassionately listening. Seeing what we like about people's lawns instead of what we don't like. A sense of imagination. A web more vulnerable & real than most. Duh.
Green Windows has created bonds for me that I feel will never be broken! Immensely grateful that boundaries of space aren't keeping me from connecting and creating with others. I am much, much more daring in my creative practice.
In a real and lasting way, Green Windows has shifted how I approach writing and creativity. More and more, I'm learning that the act of making something has value in and of itself. Even if there's seemingly nothing salvageable (rare!), sometimes making the thing clears the way, primes the pump, and/or offers a foundation for something else. I feel such gratitude for the opportunity to write with many of the same people month after month, listening to their words and getting to know each person's unique voice and style has deepened my appreciation of "voice" in storytelling, including my own. I find myself more observant of everyday expressions of creativity: a hand-painted shop window, my neighbor's little garden, an auntie's colorful outfit, a friend's cooking, zines galore. Participating in Green Windows has amplified the gratitude I feel for other community spaces in my life, and it reaffirms my commitment to cultivating mutual trust and sharing my life with other people.
After writing with GW for so many years and being exposed to great writing, writing very different from my own, I have been able to try on new voices, explore the page, break all the rules I've learned. I've thoughtfully and carelessly put words and sentences and verses together always trusting that support would follow. It's precisely the support of the community that made me feel free to play in all those ways, and Peggy's voice always repeating, "trust your voice, trust your images, trust your words."
GOODBYE, Green Windows! You made a difference!!!.
Green Windows has been an opportunity to give my writing. For me the worst part and what turns me away from writing is the initial blank page. The prompts give me direction. They help me fill that white page. Through them I have been able to express emotion in a way I have never done before. I'll be honest though, I don't know if I have the motivation to keep writing like this on my own. But now I guess no choice but to try to fill that blank page on my own. Good thing I have great examples to take inspiration from.
I took a chance and went to write there with you, one evening, and it was a good experience. Though it felt odd, not knowing anyone, and I know I look mean when I am nervous, it was good for my mind and my writing to sit with people I did not know and didn't connect with to write. Made my brain work differently.
Peggy what you have done with Green Windows is so remarkable....You are very special...most of us don't find a way to 'make a difference.' You
The method of teaching and facilitating really stuck with me, and as I move on to become a teacher I know I will carry those principles with me!
Very grateful for the couple of times I was able to take part in Green Windows! The artistic spirit and positive environment inspired me and those vibes will live on in my life.
Thank you for all you’ve done as shared and thank you for always creating spaces that felt safe. GW definitely helped me come out of my shell.
I know GW will live on in my sister, all of the GW writers, and in the works they all made together!
I'd like to challenge myself more to generate prompts & really think outside of just written lines; how to make them multidimensional & invite the other senses. I loved the variety of prompts & have kept a few over the years. Perhaps I shall put them in a jar.
Goodbye, Peggy! What a wonderful thing Green Windows was!! You always
are so creative. Hurray!
Further spontaneous writing exercises, community writing opportunities, and MORE NANOWRIMO!
Peace and Love
I will definitely be bringing the confidence I've gained in my writing and ways of giving good feedback in Green Window's writing workshops with me. I will also try ways to connect with people creatively through Zoom just as Green Windows has done.
I have met people at the workshops who have become friends and mentors. I have heard points of view I would not otherwise have heard. I have written some of my favorite pieces there, pieces that would not have been written anywhere else--a couple of which are still getting published.
GW has changed my life forever. Not only does it live on in my artistic practice, but it has given me a place to belong in the greater community, and a greater sense of how I can contribute to community.
Now by Karen Gordon
Some writings tap into unconscious knowing. Such is the case with this one. It is a potent lesson that teaches us to listen to dreams, hunches, and our connection with the universe. I am ever grateful for the opportunity to write and share the pen's messages.
(The following beautiful piece was written in a Green Windows workshop on June 3, 2020. Thank you, Karen! )
by Karen Gordon
We walk down the path.
There are broken bottles everywhere.
You point out one spot to me that is clear,
A little stream gurgles by and
To our surprise
There are live frogs in it.
Thru the stark silence, one croak then just a few more.
Overhead a crow caws.
This is where the car wash used to be. Over there are
The empty bones of the mall.
I guess I really thought we would be somewhere else by now.
Yet the air has cleared and we can
now go outside without masks.
The sky is a harsh blue
Beating overhead with brutal passion.
It’s five years further
I can still walk a good long ways.
It’s sad to say that
I do this alone.
You wait in the old house and
will greet me as best you can when I return.
We didn’t know it would be like this.
Yet it is so.
Untitled by Katherine Genis
I first encountered Green Windows skimming through the Omni Commons’ event calendar, hungry for a way to break back into a more regular creative practice. I have a vivid memory of venturing up the back stairs and finding myself in a disco-adorned room with a ring of chairs in the middle. The workshop felt natural and welcoming, and most of all I was astonished by people’s readiness to read something so fresh and offer their thoughtful, genuine feedback. When I read that night, it was the first time since high school that I had shared my creative writing with anyone.
Green Windows has profoundly shifted my relationship to writing. The care and intention that goes into the space is remarkable. Writing is both taken seriously and made extremely accessible, with the understanding that the process of writing has value in and of itself. Peggy’s skillful facilitation, often opening with a reminder to “trust your voice, trust your images, trust your imagination,” truly roots and guides the workshop. I find myself looking forward to each person’s unique interpretation of the prompt, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to share space and time with this group. Through these past few years, I’ve become curious about and invested in my own creative voice in a way I hadn’t been before.
Flipping back through my notebook, every Green Windows page has not only my writing but underlined words, starred portions, and phrases I’ve jotted down while listening to other writers––all signifiers of the connection and mutual exchange that make the workshop so deeply meaningful.
The following piece was written in a Green Windows workshop on January 24, 2019 in response to the prompt "item of clothing you'd never wear."
by Katherine Genis
My cowboy lover sends me video diary entries whenever he’s at a station with strong enough wi-fi. He’s not really a cowboy, but we’ve had the good fortune of eating real beef: once a proper steak and once just broth but still made from an actual animal. Both were strange and luxurious experiences. The first time, I vomited after we got home from the restaurant. My stomach isn’t used to real meat, let alone red meat. That was years ago now, but I’d do it again, even if it was as good as flushing hundreds of dollars down our water-efficient toilet, zeros and ones sliding away instantly without fanfare.
These days, I tend to the local grove and help people make offerings. Occasionally, curious tourists and romance-inclined teenagers come by, but mostly I see the same handful of faces, people who have known the grove for years. It’s slow work, so I keep an herb garden on the side. The satchels turn my fingers fragrant and medicinal. When the next shift arrives, I pack up my workstation and head home.
A video message waits for me. My lover, all dressed in black with greasy hair. He’s wearing the silver face paint I gave him, and his image fills the thumbnail preview. I tap play, and he tells me about his day and the other cowboys he’s met. He talks with his hands and describes, in maddening detail, a poached egg he was gifted by chance. His recounting of the yolk spilling over potatoes turns my head fuzzy with desire. After this job, he says, we’ll have eggs together. He doesn’t go into specifics about work, but he still finds lots to talk about. Mostly I just want to know he’s alive. I think he knows this.
The video auto-deletes after playing. So long, partner. I pull my hood around me, grinning in the dark apartment with only my screen to see.
The Stag by Chris Folger
What brought me to the Green Windows workshops?
For the most part, it was a desire to resuscitate my long-dormant creative writer identity. My partner Karen has been attending, and as she’s always liked the all-too-infrequent poems and prose I wrote for her, she thought that this workshop might be a good fit for me. As it turned out, she was absolutely correct.
The supportive atmosphere is a shining contrast to a creative writing class I once took back in college. I admit then when I took the class at age 20, I was hardly rife with real-world experiences, and I ultimately felt that my creative flow was stifled by a lack of good subject material and a middling imagination. Nevertheless, the stories I read to the class inevitably resulted in negative reactions from my classmates. My literary soul melted before their no-holds-barred approach to criticism disguised as critique.
The teacher was not much more supportive, spending most of her analyses discussing what did not work in my stories than what did – if anything. She happened to be a published novelist. One day, I obtained a copy of one of her novels. I have a vivid memory of settling down on my dormitory bed and opening her book with great anticipation. I couldn’t even finish it. The prose was clumsy, the characters shallow and underdeveloped, the dialogue stilted and dull. One-third of the way in, I had had enough and tossed it aside permanently. How, I asked myself, could any publisher even touch that manuscript without wearing rubber gloves?
But perhaps my standards were too high. During that same semester, I was enrolled in a class devoted to the 20th Century American novel. I was reading Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow… Was I spoiled? No. Did my teacher’s book just seem poor at a time I was reading one literary giant after another every day? I’d have to say yes. Comparatively or not, sometimes bad writing is just bad writing.
Unfortunately, her class killed my desire to continue to develop as a writer. This is why I thank God for Green Windows. This is the place to go for writers trying to figure things out and expanding their creative frontiers. I'm grateful to everyone involved in making Green Windows happen.
The piece, below, was written in a Green Windows workshop, inspired by a piece of music.
by Chris Folger
A stag bows behind his front leg, then rises, stretching himself toward the clouds. He takes several steps in the direction of the rocky brook, his legs caressing the forest floor in beatific syncopation. His eyes shine with the intelligence of the cosmos. He is Nature’s highest form of evolution.
His stride seamlessly flows into a graceful gait; pebbles kick up out of his way with all due deference and gratitude. His head darts in multiple directions, keenly spying on his world; his instincts ever on the alert for the unexpected.
He arrives at the brook. He leans down toward the drink, then stops. Is he gazing at his reflection, as much in awe of his majesty as are all other creatures? Even the reeds piercing the surface of the water bend in his direction. Are they begging him to do them the honor of feasting on them?
Now he touches his lips to the brook and begins to drink. The reeds curl away, rejected. His antlers, spiraling high from his brow, scrape tracks in the water, as if they too are thirsty.
The stag rises, satisfied. He turns and sees his mate. She approaches and they touch shoulders. They inhale the commingled fragrance of their breath
Pain by Karen Gordon
Green Windows gives me a forum in which to share personal experiences in a fictionalized way. It is not therapy, but it does give insight into feelings and motivations that can be expressed in powerful descriptions of life. Some of my best fiction and memoir has come from the opportunity to explore and reveal scenes to myself that lie just below the surface, untapped. I find this invaluable as a writer.
The piece below was written in the January Green Windows Uniquely Yours workshop. The prompt was Pain, specifically images of things that remind you of pain.
As is the magic of writing spontaneously from a prompt, you never know where your pen will lead you, if you let it. This is where it led me (unedited).
by Karen Gordon
Cutting. Cutting the skin, cutting off the blood. Cutting off the air. Blown to the ground, punched in the neck. Yes I saw stars. But the shock was the lack of breath. Then the shock of the violation, the violence. And the sense that I did something so extremely wrong as would cause this scenario.
Of course, I knew from the start that this was not a person that revered me, although he was all sweet words and smooth moves at the start. I imagined I had found a partner, a mate, dare I think a father of my child? But deep desires and fantasies die hard and I had to play this one out to the end. At the start, I believed in my own inadequacies, believed the lie that if I just lost 5 or 10 pounds that I would be desirable enough. That how he saw me was more accurate than how I saw myself. If I were stronger, more confident, I wouldn’t have followed him from place to place, wouldn’t have been more afraid of being alone than being emotionally and now physically abused. But I wasn’t strong then. And I was led by my lack.
Sometimes it’s best to be ignored, best to let things slide. It’s never been strong in my nature to “let it be.” I guess I need a sign of magnitude, to shout at me – STOP – let this one go. You don’t have to have the definitive straight-forward answer. And you can’t know what another person’s triggers are. Until you do.
I learned that night, that Xmas eve, about cornering a wild animal, one that looks calm on the outside but inside is so full of rage and angry remorse – that DANGER should flash from his eyes in red. And, of course, when I tried to make sense of it, to talk myself into a state of blame – I thought that gave me some control, some insight.
I was just wrong. I had to leave and never go back there.
Reflections by Catherine Mencher
(written November 11,2019)
In honor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I returned to the notebooks, dusty under my nightstand, filled with the work I’d done with Peggy. In the spirit of honoring my writing, my self, and my sanity, I walked my 19 -month-old son, who had not napped for the day, a mile to the library. When his chirpy banter slowed, paces from our destination, I exhaled as I lowered his stroller seat, both of us reaching equilibrium. I wheeled us into the library and returned to pieces I’d scrawled in Uniquely Yours.
Magic to return to this piece, written 8 years from the experience and now 2 years past that.
Another type of magic, Green Windows’ workshops are and aren’t about the process. I know she tugged something from me with her prompt, the trust in the room and the timer. I don’t know the prompt, and it doesn’t matter. Written likely in 10 minutes, my piece sits complete.
As I reread Athens, GA 2009, I inhabit the smaller clothes and forgotten shoes of the narrator. I poke open the door and wander about.
It’s about the process and it’s not. I’m using a timer for this meta exercise in which I’m writing about what I wrote in Uniquely Yours, but I sit alone. As the timer slows, I’m not shifting to the new energy when we share and appreciate one another in Uniquely Yours. I’m grateful for this piece I wrote, a capsule, and for now knowing this process/not process. I know a hint of that community will see me, honor me by taking in this blog post.
Athens, GA 2009
by Catherine Mencher
(written March 9, 2017 in a Uniquely Yours monthly workshop)
Head out the laundry room door, and there’s a trampoline from Craigslist.
Notice the two trailers on the back right. One of them might hold a family. There’s a plastic trike on the dirt in front. There’s a rag over the window. The other one houses a glasses-wearing white man who comes by to collect Tom’s cigarette butts. Put them in a New York Times newspaper bag for him.
On your left of the trampoline is a two-story house. A new dad. Talk to him about how the weather in Athens, GA has changed since he was a young kid. Remember to reject Southern stereotypes. Curve around the trampoline, notice my half-hearted DIY project: wine bottles buried in the dirt all cockananied and inconsistent.
Be impressed by the strawberries Vanessa planted.
Talk to the very old widow who lives in the teeny brick house next door as she hangs her thin house dresses out to dry. When she says her and her husband lived here when it was just a hill, remember. Remember the sprawling apartment complexes just a few doors down, remember the shady house with the guys who shared their coke and dressed you up just one road down, remember the public housing two stories tall just at the corner, and feel sad for her. Give her a hug.
So fun! Here's what we did:
We actually all wrote to the same prompt. We had several rounds and each time had volunteers read their writing to everyone, with the mic. The we switched partners. So we got to know different writers, too!
Here are some of the prompts:
- calculated perforated holes
- blue glow
- riveted soaking trousers
- overlooked misgivings
As always, we were struck each time by how differently each writer responded to the same prompt!
Many thanks to Salesforce Park and Intersection for the Arts!
Stay tuned for more FLASH workshops!
Freedom & Judgement by Alec West
How can I combine my passion for the issues of education equity, prison abolition and youth solidarity in one poem written in one thirteen-minute sitting? If you had asked me before 7pm Sunday night I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, but as the sky changed hues we all straggled into a warehouse in North Oakland and sat down in semi-comfortable chairs for the Uniquely Yours workshop. We opened our notebooks and Peggy started feeding us prompts. A few new folks but most of us veterans of this workshop, coming almost every month and forming close-knit bonds around shared expression. I had something on the tip of my tongue but I couldn’t taste it, couldn’t form it into the words that I wanted. My muse felt like an astronaut suspended in deep space with nothing to hold on to.
Then Peggy read the poem “Purple” by Alex Rotella and gave us the prompt, “Write about a moment when you were discouraged, or encouraged, or when you discouraged or encouraged somebody.” In this workshop it is assumed that everything we’re writing is fiction, even if it’s not. This gives us the freedom to write the truth while maintaining anonymity in our own experience. In other writing workshops I will write a piece and people will ask me about it as if the narrator is really me, Alec West, in real life, and the story I wrote was something that happened to me. Outside of Green Windows, I have to stop people and say, “This story is not about me.”
I don’t want what I say in a story or a poem to affect the relationships I have with my friends, my family, my readers, or the community at large. Outside of Green Windows, this happens whether I like it or not, but within the safe space that we all create together, I can write whatever I want, plumbing the pits of my soul for something I would never admit to my closest friend. When I share those secrets with the people around me through my writing, they nod and listen and tell me what they liked about it, then we move on. It never has to enter the relationships I form with those people outside of the workshop and it never leaves the room. With the safety afforded by Green Windows I can write freely and do the kind of self-exploratory work I need to do among others in my community who are doing the same thing.
I wrote this piece that night, based on that prompt. I thought about how discouraging it is for a teacher to have one of your students, someone much younger than you, die. I’m not revealing whether I’ve had that experience or not, but you can judge whether my writing resonates with you, and you can feel it if it is authentic.
To Be Judged
by Alec West
At twenty-four I was young to be a teacher whose student had died. Ricardo had what you would call a magnetic personality. He was tall and solid with long hair that descended to his shoulders like the coned branches of a pine tree. He wore the jail uniform like any piece of clothing you would wear. He seemed to have an air of acceptance of where he was and hope for where he was going. Both of these combined with patience, faith that he would get there, that took confidence. I only remember him really writing one piece in all of the writing workshops we had. He attended a lot of them, as he was in jail for six months after I got there and I don’t know how long he was in before.
Press play. Three months after he got out, a car crash. Ricardo was a passenger and he was dead. I’m not sure if he was 18 yet or not. I wrote in his obituary: “Almost as sad as his young death was how long he had to spend in jail.” Overall, Ricardo spent two and a half years in jail after he skipped out on probation to get a job so that he could support his family. A vast number of the people you will meet in jail are not there for their original crime, but for a violation such as staying out too late, or not checking in with their PO, things that are not illegal but could wind them back up in the system. Often these people are leading positive, productive lives and trying their best, but one misstep led them off track.
How many people are lost to parole violations, not even real crimes? How many are trapped behind walls when they could be connecting or creating with us? What if you were judged and your whole life was determined by what you did or what happened on your worst day?
There is a scene in the movie, “The Mustang” when a therapist asks a group of prisoners incarcerated for violent crimes,
“How long from the idea of the crime to the committing of the crime?”
30 seconds. Fifteen seconds. Ten seconds. Less than half a second. The men answer with certainty as though a game show is asking them what they had for breakfast.
Can you judge the entire character of a person for an action committed without making a decision?
Do you feel safe?
I’m young in my teaching and I’ve only had one student die. I’ve known teachers who have lived through the deaths of several of their students. The loss we feel is mixed with blinding injustice as the world becomes a little less colorful, a little less vibrant, and we all become a little less powerful, despite the efforts we as teachers put out every day to keep the fire burning in our students’ hearts. Our students get snuffed out. We put our dreams into these children, and these children give hope back to us. Then, the system takes these children, takes them away from the rest of us. I am a teacher and I am in my twenties and I’ve had a student die. You can judge whether I am too young or whether this is too much, but this is the world we live in. I’m not ready to make a judgment about the world, and Ricardo will always remain perfect in my memory.
Do you feel safe?
Alec West is a teacher, activist, and author of What Happened When I Stopped Watching TV, his first book, available on Amazon. He lives in Oakland, but is moving to Richmond, and was born and raised in the East Bay. You can find him on Facebook: on instagram @alecwestwriter510, or writing in a local cafe.
You Like Me Best by Catherine Mencher
Green Windows has recast how I see myself. Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I have a community to draw from. Yes, my words have a place. - Catherine
You like me best when it's cold out. Something sexy about more clothes over less. That gray shirt with your coiled strength below it: that thin barrier smooth against my pushing shoulder blades.
You like me best, but you love him most. "He's my best friend, mama."
He likes me best when he's giggly. It turns out that the most base human state is polarity. Within ten minutes, gleeful hee hees and ha has, wailful mourns and utter ambivalence.
New Apprentice: Lena Nicodemus
I’ve been writing with Green Windows for about 4 years now. I met two of the regular attendees at a coloring club meetup. I was feeling brave enough that day to venture out of my normal routine to do something like that, and holy hell am I glad I did. My first night there I heard writing like I’ve never heard before. Not like the crap they made me read in school, not the forced-to-sound-like-this writing from my creative writing class in college, not what I always thought poetry “should” sound like. I heard real, raw, authentic voices from real, raw, authentic people. We were writing at Chapter 510 then, and being in a space that could hold the creative energy for youth helped me work through some shit. It also inspired me to start a group at the elementary school where I worked using the same method that we use at Green Windows after reading Pat Schneider's book about the AWA method. Listen to some writing by an inspired 10-year-old sometime. It changed my world.
This group of people has become more than just a creative outlet for me. It’s where I sort out all the things inside and around me and find a way to feel all the feelings and have other people witness me doing it. It’s become a group of fellow soul travelers, friends, mentors, and family. I honestly cannot imagine my life without it.
When Peggy offered to take me on as her apprentice, I was beyond honored. I told her that no matter how busy my life can get, I’m learning how to make time for the things, the spaces, and the people that feed my life. What would be my life be without them anyway? Green Windows and the community of people that are part of it fit all those categories. As a therapist and someone who’s participated in and facilitated healing spaces for years, I can confidently say there’s something really special going on at Rock Paper Scissors every 4th Sunday of the month.
Writing a blog post means I’m sharing my work, too. I thought about adding a fun poem, one that invokes a laugh or at least a chuckle. Maybe one of my short pieces about my mom’s tomatoes or my brothers’ paper towel karate belts or how my dog looks at me when she pees or the time I met a human bunny rabbit on the Lost Coast. But the bravery of folks to speak truth inspires me everyday to speak mine more, and lately I’ve been encountering too much of that bravery to keep crawling back into my cave where it all feels easy and protected. I shied away from true tales of horror inflicted on women and children for many years, because it reminded me too much of mine. Maybe that’s where you, reader, need to be right now, and so I’ll give the disclaimer that this is not a fun piece. It’s a part of a journey, the part where it’s all super thick forest with no map, no machete, no rope. Hopefully, hearing a piece of my story will give you strength to write yours.
(more about Lena)
men teach me to like rape
by Lena Nicodemus
ferns & nitrous ice fog on the cold sand
a fallen tree trunk
lifting up on hips & lifting up of t-shirt
a stupid fucking visor hat
and when you look at me you look nervous
but I don’t say no
your hands are cold up my shirt & you
push your tongue too much into mine
but I don’t say no
you stick your hand down my pants
root around for whatever loose change
you’re looking for
and I remember we’re at where people who
go off trails can find us,
not far from the shit food of the national parks lodge
and I still don’t say no
later I say no and I laugh but I’m not sure I’m joking
and you hardly stop to check
I’ve been taught for my whole life to say
yes yes yes
I don’t imagine myself saying no or
why I would
the stories I hear from the couch are
always the same
men getting robbed at gunpoint and women getting raped
and then there are the stories where it’s little boys and girls
and the guns are your cousins
and I guess both guns could be your cousins
and I used to be scared of the word
and have to spell it out when asking friends
if movies had
I could watch them and
I don’t watch anything other than
the office it feels like anymore
because getting surprised by a rape scene in a movie
I thought was rated PG-13
and really 13-year-olds can watch this?
it’ll knock me out and before long
i’m scared to go out or even ride my bike anymore because
all the hey baby’s and looks feel like rape
because when i feel triggered it’s like
I’m being raped
but since I was young,
men teach me to like rape
men teach me to call nonconsensual sex “kinks”
and “it got a little rough”
and stopping to ask me once for a safe word neither of us use isn’t consent
and anyway girls can’t consent to sex only women can
and you didn’t invite a woman back to this apartment, did you?