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Another Perspective

The Brilliant Bloom

My new buddy, Olav Hauge, wrote a poem, “You Want Only to Be,”* that captured a moment in time for me. Here is his poem.
No root groping
in the hard rock,
no sprout, no sapling,
not the strong bole in the storm,
no humble branch,
no bast, no bark
in frost and snow –
no rising sap,
no force to grow,
no fruit, no seed,
not the leaf quietly
building its dome –
you want only to be
the brilliant bloom.

Fall, along with the coming of the dark, is a time I use for reflection. This year my thoughts have returned to my college Freshman English class. The young woman teaching perhaps her first college course assigned a creative writing exercise as homework. I’d never had an assignment where I could allow my mind the freedom to explore beyond its normal constraints. I eagerly embraced the opportunity.

I began with the idea of using the four seasons as a structure, an idea that stimulated my imagination. (I was too innocent to appreciate how trite this was.) Next I decided to disregard caution. I’d write the forbidden. “After all,” I rationalized, “this is a creative writing assignment. What better place is there to investigate my unknown?” I wrote about sex as only a seldom-kissed 17 year-old male could.

Writing this paper, I felt free, open, expansive. My spirit danced with delight. I felt alive as one does when personal restraints are transcended. I so wanted to be the brilliant bloom that I could hardly wait for the professor’s feedback.

When the papers were returned the red-penciled D- smacked me hard. I was stunned. How could this be? Her feedback reprimanded me for writing about sex; how this was an inappropriate choice I’d made; and I was not to do so again. I didn’t.

I admit I’ve never understood what the professor’s expectations were. Mine included being mentored, not humiliated. My ambition wanted to be nurtured, not frostbitten.

That writing exercise became one of my early experiences of the coming of the dark.

*Olav Hauge, Selected Poems, Robin Fulton, trans. (White Pine Press: Fredonia, N.Y.) 1990.
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