You know what? Asking people what they are passionate about is a really cool way to spawn an interesting conversation, full of sweet insights into the minds of colleagues, family, friends. Even better when that’s the first question you ask a new acquaintance. I shared my response first, blurting out something about the Willamette Valley, only to kick myself moments later as others shared their own passions, each more interesting than the next. ‘Turtle cognition’ pronounces a writer who I recognize from previous writing workshops. ‘Creative problem-solving’ says another (a lawyer), followed by ‘giving voice to the non-human among us’, and ‘movement’. Wow – what an interesting lot, I think.
With the front door open, we can smell rain as it starts to drop onto the driveway pavement.
Henry probes each of us, teasing out the nuances of our passions, questioning us when we gloss over details. By the end of the circle we share a sense of kinship – a mutual respect arising out of shared vulnerability and inquisition.
We read a few nature poems together – each delightful, poignant. Mary Oliver’s “Turnip-Hearted Skunk Cabbage”, Galway Kinnell’s “Gray Heron”, Lisa Bellamy’s “Wild Pansy” (really – read this one!). Each offering a turn, a surprise, an insight into the natural world around us.
Then, we are tasked to write. Follow your passion, delve deeper and head outdoors, instructs Henry. The group of 25, notebooks at the ready, head every-which-way. Some up the hillside trail, others beckoned to the cows in the pasture. One takes off her shoes to walk in Mulkey Creek.
Too soon, our writing is wrapped – we convene to share scrawled poetry and prose. I am, as ever, humbled by the beauty that spills forth as my peers read. Water is a big theme (it’s hard not to ignore the June rain), and the cows in the nearby field served as muse for many. Spiders and flies also made appearances. Vultures and pansies, too.
What a great morning!
Bald Hill Farm is a generous host, giving us fodder for filling notebooks among the pastoral pastures, creeks, and fern-forest canopies. I am thankful for this place and for these people who want to create words together.
This is what Bald Hill Farm is about, and I’m glad that it’s there for us all.
So … what are you passionate about?
Blog post: Jessica McDonald