I unzipped my bag and pulled out my slim, silver laptop. I gently laid it on the desk in front of me and looked around, noticing I was the only one to do so. I was surrounded by fourteen others. Also differing myself from the group were several decades. As the only one under the age of 70, everyone else relied on their notepads and pens. We sat around a large U-shaped desk in the center of a room, which lacked an inconspicuous exit if the moment arrived when I might need one. Behind me was a glass wall allowing full view of our group’s happenings to anyone entering the library. Feeling rather coy of my presence in this setting, I slumped in my seat for fear an onlooker may recognize me.
The clock read a few minutes past two o’clock and finally the familiar chatter amongst others was silenced. The instructor stood in the center and introduced the start of this week’s session and that it would revolve around poetry. Poetry?!? Was it too soon to dart for the door? Never having had a knack for poetry, or really even cared for it, I already felt flush with embarrassment and I hadn’t even put pen to paper. Excuse me, fingers to keyboard.
She passed around some old poetry booklets and we were each asked to tear a poem out and highlight one line that appealed to us. We shared it and were then told to use it in our own poem, following the style of “etheree.” A quick explanation and we had about fifteen minutes to create something magical that awed the others. Blank. That’s the only way I can explain what happened to my mind. Of course I pretended to ponder deep thoughts, but instead tried to sneak a peak at the others and their quick moving hands, frantically pouring out their poetic essence. Then my panic deepened as I wondered if we would need to share our masterpiece. A quick internal pep talk later, I too began madly typing away. Barely finishing, the teacher asked who would like to share first. Sure, I completed the given exercise, but it was not worthy of a roomful of snapping fingers!
With a shaky voice I quietly uttered my poem. The reaction was better than I expected as I assumed I would hear crickets from a failed task! Whether or not they were comments of sympathy rather than praise, I ran with it feeling I had survived the first assignment. This eased me into the second part of the session when I read another short piece I wrote pertaining to a city where I had lived. After individuals read their work, the room always filled with words of acclaim from the others, acknowledging the same subject depicted in a new light.
Those two hours in the front space of the library were thought provoking and I admired that group of writers who joined on a weekend afternoon to delve with others into a favorite pastime. I even made a new friend: he’s probably twice my age and screams Portlandia, but his friendliness and reassurance were calming. I had written this workshop on my calendar weeks before and it wasn’t until a couple days prior that my excitement turned to nerves. I started making excuses to Brian of why I shouldn’t go. “It’s raining,” didn’t seem like a legitimate cop-out. With a nudge from him and determination from myself, I stepped out of my comfort zone for one Sunday afternoon.
I think everyone needs a good dose of escaping the mundane and facing a challenge. One can’t easily argue any unfavorable outcome of doing so. In fact it will likely open the door at viewing life through a different lens and as a result, may welcome an understanding of an unfamiliar point of view. I myself was long overdue to venture uncharted waters, as I had not done so since our move back from Australia. Most of our time as expats lacked complacency and I harbored the results. Returning to Portland over two years ago, I’ve lived in my comfort zone – except for when I attended the writing workshop at my local public library. Of course everyone’s level of discomfort varies, but a writing workshop happened to provide a healthy lot of disquietude for me.