Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EST November 11th 2020

We welcomed 21 participants to our session today. Many had attended four or more times and there were three newcomers. Our text was an excerpt from the novel “In Country” by Bobbie Ann Mason, chosen in honor of Veteran’s Day.

Discussion began with consideration of who we found present in this short paragraph of writing – the narrator (Sam), all the many people mentioned and the Moon. There was a connection made to the photograph of a young soldier being both present and missing. It was mentioned that photographs never change but that Sam imagines what this young soldier, her father Dwayne, might be thinking, what questions he might ask or what he might feel, as she seeks a connection. There was also recognition of a political construct that built temporality through a plotting of events that had occurred and that her father had missed – the Moon landing, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. These cultural markers have impacted the family and as Sam speaks of her grandfather, father, and brother the participants noted that these male authority figures create the history that dominates Sam’s thoughts. However we get the idea that she is ready and capable of making HERSTORY in response. The passage ends with what one person reflected as a gesture of affection: Sam sets Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band on to play and says to the photograph, “You missed this too.”

The prompt (“Write about what’s missing”) inspired Interpretations ranging from missing people, missing caring, and missing mindfulness. In the shadow of the father/daughter relationship in today’s text, one writer described a caregiver/caregiving dynamic that was marked by a sense of strength (“Even if he was just being strong for me”) and vulnerability (“Once he gripped my hand in the hospital”). Direct quotes of the paternal influence (“Don’t get hysterical”) effectively brought us into the moment. Another writer’s piece centered us in the current political climate and declared “What’s missing is compassion” and asked, “Without listening, what can we expect to hear?” before affirming “You are within me, I am within you.” One more writer (“Queen of grief’) brought us to “the cusp of the time of your leaving” and although the narrator did “all the right things,” the weight of loss and the sad/angry grieving process was substantial. Although each piece of creative reflective writing differed in form, voice and content, the theme of legacy was present in all.

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.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday, November 16th at 6pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

from In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason

The soldier-boy in the picture never changed. In a way that made him dependable. But he seemed so innocent.

“Astronauts have been to the moon,” she blurted out to the picture. “July 20, 1969. Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. Collins didn’t get to walk on the moon. He had to stay in the command module.” Her father never knew things like command module and LEM, she thought, despairing at the idea of explaining to someone the history of the world since 1966. How did teachers do it?

For probably the first time now, it occurred to Sam how amazing it was that men had walked on the moon. Her father had missed so many important events. Watergate, for instance. Sam could not remember exactly what it was about. Her history teacher, Mr. Harris, had said, “The biggies in your lifetime were the moon landing, the assassinations, Vietnam, and Watergate.” Mr. Harris said everything was downhill after Kennedy was killed. Sam could probably name all the other assassinations if she thought about it.

“You missed Watergate,” Sam said to the picture. “I was in the second grade.” She remembered Emmett absorbed in it, watching it on schedule. It was a TV series one summer. When Nixon resigned, Emmett and Irene were ecstatic, but their parents had voted for Nixon and said the country would fall apart if he was forced out. Sam wondered if that was why nobody could get jobs and the world was in such a mess. She stared at the picture, squinting her eyes, as if she expected it to come to life. But Dwayne had died with his secrets. Emmett was walking around with his. Anyone who survived Vietnam seemed to regard it as something personal and embarrassing. Granddad had said they were embarrassed that they lost the war, but Emmett said they were embarrassed that they were still alive. “I guess you’re not embarrassed,” she said to the picture. The face in the picture ruled the room, like the picture of the President on the wall of the high school auditorium. Sam set Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the stereo.

“You missed this too,” she said.

9 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EST November 11th 2020

  1. ju_2020

    Saying what I want to say is missing.
    Understanding the importance of my feelings is missing a little bit too.
    Assuming my love for the dance that keeps me moving through this pandemic is missing too.
    The fear of being judged makes a part of my well being be missed as well.
    Why can’t I say when I’m hurt? The answer for that question is missing too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      As I read this I desire that the speaker find the dance that keeps them moving through this pandemic. I can see the allonge that guides them through the spaces in the viral shroud. Andre


  2. What’s missing~~~

    One day seems just like the last.
    The future disappears.
    No new news, the same old scripts being played over and over.
    Anger and distrust rule the roost.
    Sides are taken,
    find your spot on one side or the other,
    shoving and pushing.

    Sanity has taken a back seat to the shouts of fraud and stealing.
    What’s missing is compassion,
    the realization that we are all part of this world,
    striving for the basic wants of survival.

    But without listening how can we expect to hear,
    to learn,
    to understand?
    We are lost fighting over the scraps of what’s left of our humanity.

    Listen and acknowledge my existence.
    You are within me.
    I am within you.


    • Andre Lijoi

      Michele, you leave me pondering deeply, with statements like watching the future disappear. It seems we look for spots in one corner or the other, distancing. The idea of being lost fight over scraps of what is left of our humanity is somber, yet the speaker summons a bright like, challenging the intrinsic connection between others. Andre

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ju_2020


    In Brazil, we love to say that saudade is a word that only exists in Portuguese. If we could, I think we would say we created this word and it’s only said in Brazil. 
My teacher keeps saying this word exists in arabic too: اشتَافُ.
Our class, by consensus, choose to ignore this part of the lesson.
In English, saudade would mean “to miss”. But not exactly…
    After our NM session today, I saw the difference between saudade – for something of the past – and missing something as an absence.
    An absence we might want to fulfill in the future.
    This is a description that saudade cannot achieve.
    May anyone hear that I said saudade cannot achieve something…it is a kind of sacred word for us here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      Saudade seems to be the perfect word for today’s discussion. I hear a lot of yearning in the narratives shared and the discussion, in Ellen’s dialogue with her father, in the thought about our legacies raised by Catherine, in Michele’s request that we “listen to my existence”, and in Janine’s start lament from the “Grief and Loss Queen.” Indeed a sacred word, a beautiful word. Saudade. Andre


  4. al3793

    “Write about what’s missing…”

    Something’s missing
    Fifty eight thousand two hundred twenty young US men and women who died in Vietnam.
    Who knows how many Vietnamese civilian men, women and children, or
    How many Vietnamese soldiers from the North and South and
    Viet Cong solders who died fighting in their country?
    Who knows how many people were purged in the North and South and unified Vietnam?
    Who know how many Georges, Breonnas, Tyrees and Tinas, Ahmauds and Unidentifieds have died, names we should not have known…
    Something’s missing.
    Breath claimed by man’s penchant for violence, by a
    Red pieded, submicronic virion that shrouds the world.
    Who knows how many tears have been shed?
    Who knows how many memories that should be…that
    Are only imagined,
    That only appear in a photo, reliable, soldier boy, or momma’s boy who pleaded for breath, or
    Someone’s Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Husband, Wife…
    Memories that are called up unconsciously stored in one’s heart.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Patricia D.

    Look behind the clouds
    in your mind and you will
    find what you thought was missing.

    sorry I missed our session


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