Steve Trimble, a well-known Utah photographer and writer and also a longtime friend of Brooke’s and mine, is teaching a couple of writing classes at the university this semester. Somehow he was stirred by something or other he read on the blog the other day and asked me to come to his classes to talk about how Brooke and I each write, separately and together, for it.
I’ve been to the first of these classes—maybe 30 students, packed into a small seminar room on the basement floor, students intensely interested in writing. When I arrived, one of the students was reading from his work, a vivid account of his experience when he was employed as a chain-saw operator clearing land for development--both his shame and sense of sin, as he called it, in cutting down the trees in a particularly lovely, mossy grove, but also his sense of privilege in being the last person ever to see it. I was moved this evocation of real ambivalence and tension between seemingly incompatible dualities, but it also gave me the sense that this would be a group of students who would be sensitive to the seemingly incompatible dualities Brooke and I experience all the time: between ongoing anguish at what has happened to him and the extraordinary moments of insight and love laced through this.
Well, Steve’s got a great class. Their assignment was to read the blog and come equipped with questions. The handful of questions we had time to discuss in class were interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, but it was just a handful, and of course there wasn’t nearly enough time to cover all the questions from all the 30 or so students. I told them how much it has meant to both Brooke and me to read the comments on the blog (particularly to Brooke, since it’s one of the principal forms of contact he has with the world beyond the walls of his hospital room) and how interested he and I would both be in all the questions from all the students, about how they see what we see from their own differing perspectives. The only things I know about them are that 1) none of them keeps a blog of their own and 2) something like two-thirds of them ride bicycles.
So there’s a new assignment Steve is giving to these classes: to post their questions here. Right here. Read on. There could be as many as 30 coming in from this class, and a bunch more from the next one. I imagine they’ll all make us think.
And thanks, Steve.