Next in the Royal Chundu Homeschool, we bring you writing exercises from a few of our favourite voices!
To start the show, Becky Bader, a wonderful full-of-light former teacher based in the United States who visited us earlier this year, shares an inspiring lesson to encourage you to pick up the pen and start writing ~ whether it’s about previous travels or moments that still bring you delight. Join us to create and play in that rich inner world of words and memories! Over to Becky…
Moments pass. Some drift slowly, like a gently-rocking canoe on a cool, quiet day in the channels around Katombora Island; others flow quickly, like an adrenalin rush when rowing through the rippling rapids in those same Zambezi waters. But in the blur of each day, moments shimmering with life often fade.
We remember the picnic on the riverbank, but what about the details that delighted us? Blue-yellow Chitenge napkins on shiny silver trays with crystal glasses of ice-cold Pimm’s, perfected with cucumber and red-green apples and mint. Swaying hammocks under waterberry trees and a swinging rubber-tire table with orange slices, cheese trays, and a silver champagne ice-bucket close by.
And what about our feelings?
Do we remember how we reacted when a whirling flock of feathers dove head-first into the foaming eddy? Do we remember how we responded when the grinning Zambian boy in the wooden mokoro almost lost his balance while fishing in the papyrus-lined stream? Do we remember how we felt as we strolled through the forest of ancient baobab and jackalberry trees on our walk to Royal Chundu’s Island Lodge?
The picnic, remembered, but what about those serendipitous snippets of delight disguised as ordinary moments in our day?
Time passes. We lose the moments, even the special ones. We drop them, even though we don’t mean to. We forget about them, even though we try hard to hold on to them.
So, why not gather those fragments of life and write them, fragment-style, on paper?
No grammar worries, no spelling struggles, no punctuation peeves. Simply list what you see: bushy green river cane, earthy-brown planked walkway, and one white egret, standing still on the water reeds, jabbing its long black bill into the blue-green river. Capture those moments filled with colour or the lack of it: snow-white terry robes, foamy white cappuccino, sandy white shore, fluffy ivory plumage, white fleecy puffs blanketing the sky.
Or let your imagination wander like the Zambezi, twisting and turning, rippling and roaring, branching off into streams of surprises. That puffy cloud looks like a kingfisher, swooping down to snatch a fish out of the golden-green river water below. The draping canopy of waterpear trees looks like a tunnel of green, leading to an elf’s secret hideout. That twisted tree root looks like a silver-haired mermaid, drifting in the sparkling rapids. Follow the thought until the mystery appears, and then let it wander some more.
And while your mind is wandering, let it wonder, too.
What if that large lizard is really a dragon? What if there are hobbits living in the hollow of that mystical baobab tree? What if that black-faced vervet monkey knows what I am thinking? Rambling questions, jotting them down as fast as they flick through your mind. Or wait and write later. Don’t lose the moment by writing, but capture the moment that moves you to write.
Pay attention to what stirs your emotions. What causes you to laugh out loud? What makes you really, really happy? What gives you peace? Describe what you see, but also how it makes you feel. Did your heart beat faster when the crocodile slithered out from under the lily pad by your inflatable canoe? Did you grab your friend’s arm the moment you saw that grey giant of an elephant with its calf by the river’s edge? How did you react when your hand brushed against that sticky spider web or touched that slimy dew on the deck’s handrail or saw two hippo eyes peeking out of the water?
What happened that caused you to react the way you did?
Welcome the questions that come from observing our world. What’s the name of that solitary brown bird with the white breast walking on the water reeds? Why is that monitor lizard digging in the termite mound? How does that enormous elephant with the broken tusk strip the bark off that acacia tree? What? Why? How? Find out the answers later. Always ask yourself, “What will I see today I’ve never seen before?” The closer we observe, the more we notice and learn and remember later.
While gazing outward, what’s inside—the fears and conflicts, longings and passions, secrets and secret feelings—tumble out, too, without an inner critic to stop them. And before long, your scribbling and doodling becomes prose and poetry, and you’ve filled “your paper with the breathings of your heart” as Wordsworth described writing.
So grab a pen and paper, and gather the moments, one at a time.
How to begin?
Sit in a rocking chair on your back porch.
Swing in a hammock.
Relax under the shade of a tree.
Glance out a window.
Walk. Pause. Linger. Look.
Focus on what’s right before you, then make a list of what you see. Capture the freshness of a first glance that happens only once. Respect life by observing, then gather your feelings and thoughts like eggs in a basket, words filling the pages of your notebooks. Abbreviate. Draw. Scribble. No editing required.
Young children enjoy writing, too.
Their imagination soars to the bouncing bunnies and dancing dragons frolicking in the sky. Thickets of trees and ferns are a tunnel of green leading to a wacky wizard’s den. Watch a curious child follow a relentless beetle pushing a big ball of dung uphill, undeterred in its efforts every time the dung escapes and rolls back down the mound.
“I see a mockingbird,” I say to my grandson. “What do you see?”
“Pink roses, grey angel fountain, a lonely rusty hummingbird, red circular and square bricks, a real hummingbird, decorative white bunnies,” he effortlessly replies while staring out the front door. “Oh, and a black metal table, white birdhouse that looks like a church, metal rusty pot, red-striped cushion…” His river of words, unceasing, while I type as fast as I can, which is one way to record what a child sees.
And if children are too young to write, they can draw what they see, too, as moments are gathered to be remembered later.
Whether it’s the Zambian bush or your neighborhood park, whether it’s the Zambezi River or the creek running through your town, whether it’s the teak deck at Island Lodge or the back porch in your own comfy home, the world beckons us to pay attention, to dream, to live in the fullness of each moment. And as the moments move in, the junk moves out, and our mind, decluttered and fresh, fully occupies the present, the gift of the day.
Do it for yourself! Do it to remember! Do it for fun! Now’s the time to begin gathering the moments that make up your life. Are you ready?
Share your writings with us!