Mr. Smith sits in my class as I guide him and another 16 participants down memory lane. The course is "Mining Your Memories -- Writing Family Stories." Although I am still checking his earlier writings, Mr. Smith is anxious to record his life experiences. He is one of three men in the class, all having written something pertaining to their life's experiences.
In class, consisting of four one and one-half hours the second Thursday at a library, I give keys to finding the path to remembering what is on the bottom shelf of their minds. I was told once to imagine the mind being like a group of stacked shelves, with the bottom ones filled with early experiences and as we live, each line of shelves filling with remembrances of our sadness and gladness. The class is working with material from the bottom shelves.
So far I've read Mr. Smith's greeting cards and some poetry. He knows how to express Godly love, compassion, and thoughtfulness in his words. All are typed on a manual machine; I recognize the imprint. I can imagine him punching the keys as many early writers have done on their non-electric Royals and Smith-Coronas.. He carefully places each line on the page as though he is planting a small flower. He capitalizes where I wouldn't expect, but my remarking that he shouldn't is again taking away his creativity. I have to be careful to understand what is emphasized.
Here is a partial quote from one of his writings, entitled "Live Inside of Creation".
"Look at the Whole of what's going on
And learn to receive the life of its
Being. Move into the inside of what's seen,
And understand what's there to help us.
Be open to Who we are."
This is from a book entitled The Breath of God. Beautiful, isn't it? As I wrote earlier, he is 71 years old and is an ordained minister. Whether or not one believes in a Holy Being, his words resonate with truth.
I'm anxious to read his biography. Like many from the South, he moved to Chicago to live and eventually returned to the state and married. He is pleased with what he has done to help others in his life's work with alcoholics, and especially proud of his family. Knowing him enriches my being.
His work is an every-day enjoyment. He splashes the oils onto his plywood canvases as though he has no care in the world. In the woods near his home he's found twisted vines growing around tree limbs. He hacks them into walking sticks and sculptured pieces and paints them glowing colors.
Even if he doesn't see people and flowers as you do, his paintings are as one of my friends says, " . . . are quite different from each other and seen together in a group, they
compliment each other without being the same painting over and over." That's Mr. Smith's gift to the world.