This week students in my writing class are working on dialogue. They are warming up for a long narrative, one that focuses on what’s most important to them. I call this assignment “Taking the Ground Up.” It comes after having practiced yoga with them for a couple of weeks. We’ve explored a Sun Salutation.
This sequence is a series of poses meant to warm the body, the second pose in the Sun Salutation is called Upward Hand Salute (Urdhva Hastasana). This pose is a metaphorical taking the ground up into the fingertips. It comes right after Mountain Pose, where we take time to ground ourselves. The action can be seen as a bridging of Earth below and sky above.
With that in mind I ask them to write about a time that they acted as a bridge of sorts, where their words and actions allowed someone else to crossover and unite rather than be left alone and behind. I ask them to jump in without much of an introduction, write a scene, capture the emotion of the moment when the bridge emerged.
As I have taught this week I thought back of the first time I felt I acted as a bridge. I was 10 years old. It was 1976. My dad was about to open his company. He spoke little English. We had moved to the US two years prior. I had Sesame Street English under my belt.
Forty-three years later, I can recall driving to La Belle and stepping up to the Hendry County Courthouse. I have no recollection of what my dad asked me to translate but do have memories of walking in and feeling a sense of awe at the building, and most significantly, at my father who was doing something I somehow understood as life changing. I sensed I was in the presence of an imaginative and courageous man.
Years later in my high school physics class, I was given an assignment to make a balsa wood bridge. The goal was to win a school contest to see which bridge held the most weight. I had no idea how to approach the project. My dad took over and we (he) made the bridge.
We spent hours in his home office cutting the pieces of wood with an X-Acto Knife on his drafting table. We did not win first place, but the time spent on that project brought me closer to him. This seemingly unimportant class project, planted a seed that still bears fruit. I sensed a tender man. The bridge is one of the few physical items I have that connect me directly to my dad. It is a cherished gift.
Years later, as I write this, I realize that bridge making is something I come back to constantly. I want to believe that both my dad and I crossed over on both of those occasions.
As I look at my own efforts, sometimes my bridge making is wonderfully satisfying and effective. Other times, my efforts fail miserably, leaving me brokenhearted and achy, picking up pieces. The act of looking back, however, reminds me of the good work to be had by making connections.
How about you? Can you recall a time when you acted as a bridge for someone? When someone crossed over to a better state of being because of you?