Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!
Our text was an excerpt from “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death” by Jean-Dominique Bauby, posted below. We read the excerpt once and discussed how the author and father demonstrated care for each other through their actions, without the need for words. We saw the mirror surrounded by photos of loved ones as another sign of affection between father and son. One participant pointed out that the second paragraph describing the father’s “lifetime’s [of] clutter” reminded her of what she and others are living through now, “My life is around me in my house.”
Our prompt was: Write about a room of care. Two participants shared their writing inspiring a rich array of responses from the listeners. Responders noted that the shared pieces were written in the shadow of the Diving Bell text. The first sharer’s detailed description of a richly appointed room of care and comfort invited listeners to shelter in a space of vulnerability. The second share moved with spare, short sentences, limited imagery, and rigorous honesty offering listeners permission to experience with the writer the giving and receiving of love and care along with a need for relief.
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
Please join us for our next session: Monday, May 11th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.
We look forward to seeing you again soon!
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, excerpt by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Hunched in the red-upholstered armchair where he sifts through the day’s newspapers, my dad bravely endures the rasp of the razor attacking his loose skin. I wrap a big towel around his shriveled neck, daub thick lather over his face, and do my best not to irritate his skin, dotted here and there with small dilated capillaries. From age and fatigue, his eyes have sunk deep into their sockets, and his nose looks too prominent for his emaciated features. But, still flaunting the plume of hair — now snow white — that has always crowned his tall frame, he has lost none of his splendor
All around us, a lifetime’s clutter has accumulated; his room calls to mind one of those old persons’ attics whose secrets only they can know — a confusion of old magazines, records no longer played, miscellaneous objects. Photos from all the ages of man have been stuck into the frame of a large mirror. There is dad, wearing a sailor suit and playing with a hoop before the Great War; my eight-year-old daughter in riding gear; and a black-and-white photo of myself on a miniature-golf course. I was eleven, my ears protruded, and I looked like a somewhat simpleminded schoolboy. Mortifying to realize that at that age I was already a confirmed dunce.
I complete my barber’s duties by splashing my father with his favorite aftershave lotion. Then we say goodbye; this time, for once, he neglects to mention the letter in his writing desk where his last wishes are set out.
from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death, by Jean-Dominique Bauby (Vintage: 1998)
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