With Three Writing Catalysts
One - Luminous Object
A luminous object has rich associations when you hold it in your hands. An example of a luminous object is the jewelry box which I salvaged from my mother's house, may her memory be for a blessing. It must be about 80 years old or more by now. I remember holding it as a child and rummaging through all the necklaces, bracelets, rings, and assorted jewelry. It looks Old World, and I always thought it came from the Old Country with my family during the move.
The jewelry box embodies childhood memories, feelings about my mother, my grandmother, my ancestral home. It leads me to reveries about the old mahogany furniture in my parents' bedroom and dreams about hidden money, hidden chocolates, and other hidden goodies. I think my mother actually did squirrel money away in that box.
The box is falling apart, and it sits on my shelf in pieces. The metal filigree sides have disattached themselves from the velvet covered bottom. The satiny cover is so faded that the flowers have disappeared. But more importantly, the box still carries the smell of my mother's perfume.
Writing Catalyst: Think of something you own which is much more than a simple object since it serves as a repository for your memories. Hold it in your mind's eye, and savor its presence. Look at it from all angles. Let it resonate, and listen to the tales it tells.
2 - Your Hands
The act of looking at your hands can take us on a journey inside to our internal world. The hands are your faithful servants. Every line and crease records the work you’ve done, the care you’ve given, the love that you’ve shown, your accomplishments, your hopes and dreams for what you haven't yet accomplished, etc.
Each person's hands are unique. You may have looked at your mother's hands or a close friend's hands, or your husband or wife’s hands before you decided to marry them. What were you able to see in their hands?
Writing Catalyst: Take a few minutes to look at your hands. Turn them over and over in front of you. Look at the palms and the lines that crisscross and intersect. What journeys do you see in your hands? What futures do you see? What memories from the past? Do you appreciate your hands, and if yes, why?
Do you hear your hands crying to tell you something? Listen to the whisperings of your hands as you rest them gently on your cheeks. Feel their warmth. Listen to what they are saying. What are they yearning to do?
3 - The Promise in Your Name
When a child is born, the parents are given a measure of divine inspiration in order to find the name that is already known in Heaven. Therefore, a person's name is far from coincidence or the simple whim of the parents. It is the Jewish custom to pray for a person, using a person's name with the name of his or her mother. The Jewish marriage contract or kesuba is very carefully written with the correct names. One’s name embodies one’s identity in ways that are known, as well as ways that are beyond our knowing.
In looking closely at our own names, we can learn more about ourselves. I enjoy my English name Wendy because it expresses a playful, adventuresome side of me. My Hebrew name Varda is in memory of my Grandfather Velvel. When I was born my father looked through a list of Hebrew names beginning with the letter vav and settled on the name Varda, meaning “rose” in Aramaic.
As a child, I don’t remember knowing my Hebrew name. They called me Tzippora during my summer in kibbutz, since I didn't know I already had a Hebrew name. I found my name when I returned to Israel to study at a women’s yeshiva, but I was mistaken. I called myself Chana Varda. At the last moment, just before my wedding in Denver, my mother stepped forward and corrected the misunderstanding by telling me, and the scribe who was writing the kesuba, that my name was really only Varda.
It took me some time to grow into that name, but over time I found it wrapping itself around me like a perfectly fitted garment.
Writing Catalyst: Think of the stories you were told about your own naming. How have you related to your name over the years? How has your name been a promise you were growing into? Turn your name over and over in your hands as if you were appreciating a luminous object.