One of my favorite online journals, Brevity, posted a Mad Libs exercise, created by writer and teacher Lee Martin, on their blog. I decided to try it--here's my result:
by Rachael Button
The first time I visited the Cascades I worked in a community called Holden Village as a gardener. I spent most of my time weeding. I weeded herb beds and flower beds, brick pathways and dirt roads. I pulled grass and dandelions, letting the tendrils of their roots rest in my palms. I flicked soil from the structure that had delivered nutrients to the plant--tying them to the earth. The strands looked like lace, a web of fragile fibers. I watched the roots wilt between my fingers before I bagged them to be burned.
2.I’ve moved six times in seven years. When I moved to the Cascades more permanently, to teach in the Holden Village school (a year after my first visit to the mountains), I made stops: at a friend’s apartment in Chicago, a professor’s bungalow in Grinnell, a monastery in Wyoming, and a house in Spokane. My longest stop was in Ames, Iowa—where I had lived for three years as a graduate student. I stayed for four days. I went out to lunch and lingered over breakfast coffee. I hiked on land owned by the English department and watched Northern Exposure at a friend’s newly purchased house. The night before I left I went walking with a friend I love, a friend I used to date. We walked shoulder-to-shoulder through downtown Ames on sidewalks shadowed by streetlights. He drove me home. After he turned off his engine, I lay my head on his narrow shoulders and asked him if I could keep it there. I knew that the next day I would drive sixteen hours by myself to the Big Horn Mountains. But in that moment I needed to be tied to him. I needed to let my body go limp. We didn’t kiss. We didn’t melt into each other. We just sat close. He stayed still enough for me to cry, silent enough for me to tell him I felt scared, rootless.
3.When I worked in the garden at Holden webs of roots crumpled and furrowed in my fingers. They were fitful, piece-y, like the Cascades Mountains encircling the garden where I weeded. The stony faces of the Cascades are rugged: young and becoming. A rocky spine jutting through Washington with summits and spires cut by geographic violence: the scrape of glaciers and the swell of volcanoes.
I like to think I’m more like the mountains than those plants I held between my fingers: capable of becoming more vivid as I break and change. I picture snowfields and false summits that a person can stand on, reaching solo for a cloud-shielded sky.
5.Last Friday night, a friend and I sat in the Holden Village hot tub and talked about home. He said he wondered what made a person feel rooted in a place. He’d felt attached to people in the past but he wanted a place he could gravitate around: a home. I told him that I’d been writing about home and love: about how both become more difficult to find as I age. Freezing rain fell around us. Steam rose from the water. Clouds covered the stars and mountain summits.
When I woke the next morning, snow sheltered our mountain valley, softening the cliffs and scree. I thought about seasons: about the blankets that cover us and the way they melt: transplanting us in new places, rooting us to our craggy homes.
Here's the process:
(Again I'm completely stealing this from Lee Martin but it's fun so I wanted to share)