Musings of Anna1liese

Dream Hope Breathe Believe
MAY 19, 2011 7:06PM

My Swan

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“Write a poem and then draw a picture that will help us understand your poem.”


I do not remember how old I was or which nun spoke those words.  Was it seventh grade.  


I remember fear.  Draw a picture.  Draw.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear.


I felt total paralysis.  I can’t draw.  I remember nothingness.


I must have been scribbling on a piece of paper and praying for something to appear to me, for me.  Did I start to scribble the alphabet.  All I see is a letter “S”.  I don’t remember if I played with it or just kept looking at it.  I do remember the moment it stopped being an S and became a possibility.  It became a curve and the curve made me think of something.  The curve became the back line of a swan.  I began to see a swan.  I could make a swan from this S.



With very few lines more, I began to see a swan.  It was tiny.  It was very spare but it did look like the simplest swan.  I think this was the only thought I had.  I had a drawing.  Enormous relief.  Giddy relief.


Don’t remember how the words came, but words were only words.  I could find words.  Then done.  


Next day we had to hand over the assignment.  I remember nothing more than acute relief.  Please don’t ever ask us to do this again.  Breathing.  I remember I was breathing.  


Sister whoever it was looked through the papers and chose one to share.  Of course it meant showing the drawing.  I was sinking away in my relief.  My swan would keep me safe.  We looked.  We listened as she read someone’s words aloud.  Then we shared what we made of that someone’s words.  


I began to hear words I recognized - something about a swan.  Did I drop something on the floor to become invisible.  No one questioned the drawing.  Everyone saw a swan.  She read my words again and then again.  What did we hear.  I remember feeling totally locked in place.  Numb.


Hands went up.  Words were offered.  I heard them.  They were telling Sister what my poem meant.  She and they spoke as though they were describing what I had intended to show.


I had intended to complete the assignment by making up lines to go with the only thing I had managed to draw.


But no.  The discussion went on and on.  She meant this.  No, she meant that.  Everyone seemed to feed off everyone else.  By the end, I wondered who she was.  “She” had meant something so meaningful and significant.


I had not meant anything except to say something about a swan.  “She” had nothing to do with me.  Sister and everyone else thought they had seen inside of me.  I felt more invisible than ever before.  


No one ever asked me what I had tried to say.  They had figured it out for me.  They had loved it.  I had not meant any of that.  I felt a perfect sham.


In time this exercise made me think of what writers sometimes really mean and what we suppose that they mean.  Was what my classmates and my teacher thought they saw really in those lines I drew from air.  If so, then it came from air.  It did not consciously come from me.  


What is it that writers mean when they pen their words.  Do they think of all the universe or, sometimes, do they simply think of words, think of them and then let them go and hope they will speak in some way to someone.  I wonder, do we ever really know.






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Your tags say so much. Wish I'd sat next to you in that classroom-we'd have been such great friends! R
I really enjoyed your thinking here. How many times have I started to comment on something someone has written and stopped myself unsure whether what I was going to say was what they meant for me to see.
It is when someone hears what we really are saying in our words ... whether written or spoken, that touches is special ... that touches the heart ... and then we know that we really have been heard from within ... that someone is listening and feeling and caring.
I've experienced something similar. I always wonder what well-dissected authors think about the interpretations of their work! Maybe it's an honor to be so deep as to be misunderstood?? Maybe...
Well done friend, how well you wrapped that little gift in a story. Thanks for this anna.
i loved what you said here. I think its OK for people to take what they can from what we write, but when that connection is made, and our words really "speak" to someone, that's so satisfying.
you have said so much so sparely and finely.
and your meaning is clear to us.
I've never considered it that way from the writer's point of view. Now you've given me something new to think about.
You make the point that out of tiny swans come really big pictures - to your surprise - no surprise really - your words are always really big! Now, you make us think that our words have impacts that perhaps were either totally unintended or are intended. Your piece makes us think about introspection and our words. Well done.
Muse, I would have loved that! Still soaking in your words from last night. Friends now, I think.

Lunchlady, I have done exactly the same thing and sometimes I offer a suggestion of what I think I see. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Kate, I agree. Moments like these. Moments like these. Everything.

Bell, You make me smile. You speak to the teacher in me, influenced deeply by this early wondering, that was always more concerned with what my students saw in what we read for themselves and with their own eyes or minds or hearts or souls than with the “correct” box waiting to be ticked.
Smiling even as I type.

Rita, This piece started as one thing and then, more recently here for me, became a bit of something else. Lovely to hear your words.

Trilogy, Always, I think, it is the spark of true connection, the sense of truly being heard that is the hallmark, and yet the connection we did not expect can be just as golden and encouraging. It is sometimes as though we wrap a gift and hope that someone will see what we see, feel what we feel, know what we know.

Cyril, Lovely words. Thank-you for them.

l”Heure, You are generous and your words make me glad.

Peparcheo, Perhaps it is worth considering that all our words may impact whether we offer the gift or observation. All words speak. May more offer hope than not. Thanks for your thoughts.
I have no answer, but it seems you offered something everyone could find something in of their own. Seems to me that's the work of art. Not necessarily consoling to the person who carries the gift. I loved the story.
I have no answer, but it seems you offered something everyone could find something in of their own. Seems to me that's the work of art. Not necessarily consoling to the person who carries the gift. I loved the story.
You remind me of " The picture is the promise of the poem."

Inscrutable, those Chinese. And the way their writing is still so closely tied to pictographs. You learn to write with a brush. It's all in the line. You paint, and then it's read.

I love this transition - so obvious, the swan in S, but it takes a child to see it.

I bet your poem was written with a totally newfound sense of relief and accomplishment ; that what they read in your poem was grace.

It takes a child to draw ; it takes a swan to fly ;-)
this is beautiful Anna.
I let mine go- sculptures and words both- once they are where anyone else can see them, they are no longer mine.
Everyone projects themselves onto what they see. I think that's what makes life accessible. With art it might not be anything close to what the maker intended, but if it touches them and makes them stop and reflect- to me that is enough, that is art
It is lonely feeling though sometimes. Everyone just wants to be understood and loved.
Spike, When I first saw thoughts shared here, they were all so rich, I didn’t want to interrupt. Perhaps it is the sharing that sometimes allows words to breathe almost on their own. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

Kim, Julie, Forgive me if I take even more time simply to soak in the gifts of your words. So different and so moving. Sometimes, as now, someone else’s thoughts provide the golden thread, the weaving thread, as thought leads on to thought. I will be back - once I find my thoughts - even if only for myself.
what Bell said
and Kim made me cry

(usually when one writes one means one thing or a hundred, when read one says yes you've got it, or not, that's not it, or even wow, I hadn't considered that at all and it's there)
Vanessa, I know. I cried as well. And sometimes someone's words lift you, lighten you, as though he had handed you your very own ray of the sun with all its warmth. One must first have such gifts oneself before one can ever share them.

"... one means one thing or a hundred...." Sometimes. I wonder, do we sometimes hide. A whisper. A whisper.
Julie, “... if it touches them and makes them stop and reflect - to me that is enough, that is art....” You are so thoughtful here. If we are lucky enough to touch someone with whatever it is that we create, perhaps that is the gift itself, the one we most intended to give. Thank you for sharing these lovely thoughts and your understanding.

Kim, I feel as though a lovely, buoyant cloud has come to lift me and bring rainbows into view. How easy, as I keep reading your words, to breathe as deeply as I can and then remember to look up.

I wonder if I shared this remembrance of my swan to hear the gifts you bring. I wish the child who drew this swan had been lucky enough to learn from you. Perhaps she is learning here. Surely my swan is flying now. Grace. I can only hope.

I love the way you think of this. And as you think, you help me see.
Great story. What does it mean, by the way? :)

this made me smile that Mona Lisa smile. I wonder when I write, at how I am perceived. But it's ok or so I feel, that as long as I enjoy the that, is a gracious gift all itself.
I have never heard it stated so well. Most of the time I think I know what I mean to say in a poem, sometimes I have no idea, sometimes the words are strung together by a force outside myself. The main reason I love to post here is the comments, I love to read when someone finds a meaning I never saw or thought.
rated with love
Good Question aAnnaliese-- about all the arts and even conversation for that matter. Sometimes I wonder how we can communicate at all. I may say dog, you may visualize a poodle and I may visualize a collie. So our minds go in different directions. I think the good thing about a piece of art is that if people respond to it no matter whether you intend it that way, is that the art has LIFE. So we've done something powerful enough that another receives it.
Nice you know the song by julie Cruise about the swan?
Happy 4th of July to you on this super day.
This is one of those pieces that comes along and transforms seamlessly from words on the page to pictures in my mind. I shared your thinking, recognized it as something I think, too, but never so eloquently, and came away feeling like I'd made a friend. Your writing is a delight.