Last Saturday, Lakshmi Priya hosted a session at Write Club on values. The interesting thing about value-based writing, we found, was that it was often difficult to separate one value from another. It just goes to show that our worldview is often comprised of certain ephemeral set of rules of guidelines (or habits?) that we call ‘values’. And most of the time, we cannot either define them or tell them apart. Drawing neat little mutually exclusive circles about each value, needless to say, is impossible.
Anyway, we had the following three exercises to work through.
Write a Terribly Tiny Tale based on one of the following three values:
We had a fun time guessing from people’s pieces what their core emotion was. Often the writer would intend to write about compassion and end up writing about integrity. Humility in the mid became compassion on paper. Some pieces had all three. I remember a scene where a man goes to toss a coin at a beggar, but on looking closely, finds that the shining discs in the beggar’s bowl are not coins but war medals.
When we asked what value it was about, someone said compassion because the man was giving alms to a beggar. Someone else said integrity because that’s what the medals stood for. Yet someone else said humility because the man must have felt humbled by the sight of a war hero begging on the street.
As I said, we had fun.
The purpose of this exercise was to write story, poem or mood piece with an animal as a protagonist. The main theme in your piece should be the same value you picked for Exercise 1. There are three prompts to choose from:
- A wolf falls in love with a sheep
- A raven watches your life through the window of your room.
- The black cat, a witch’s pet.
Here we wrote another scene or mood piece on the same value, but this time the beginning of the piece was given to us as a prompt.
- That night, when five of us sat around the bonfire, enjoying roasted nuts, Bhoomi told us secret, a secret that changed us forever…
- Hi Alchoholics Anonymous, until last night it had been exactly 7 months and 15 days that I had gone without alchohol. I know I was doing great…but then something happened
- (Parent to child) Let me tell you a story, this story is about a box…
I was not able to write about exercises 1 and 3 because I had to move around the room speaking to people, but I did manage to get something in for exercise 2. My prompt was: Wolf falls in love with sheep.
I stayed in the shadows of the five elm trees. Mama told me that a wolf must stay out of sight, especially on clear summer nights such as these. ‘You will one day grow up to be the head of the pack, Luka,’ she said. ‘You will lead us all in hunt. A wolf’s strength is not in his claws. It’s not in his teeth. It’s in how well he hides himself, how he becomes one with the shadow.’
I ran along the grassy path and crouch under the fence for a quick sniff. I’d come close enough to make out faint bleats. A dim orange glow lit up the barn window. I craned my neck and looked up at the sky. A few minutes more and the moon would rise. I had to finish my work before that. Sheep were stupid, mama told me. The younger ones are always wandering off, and they had such tiny voices. One squeeze of the paw and they fell silent.
I tottered up to the barn wall now, ears perked up, tongue hanging out. I was breathing hard, and my throat began to itch. I bent down to lick any evening dew off the blades of grass. They tasted sweet, made me think of Mama’s soft howls that put me to sleep every night.
But dry as sand.
Pulling my claws inward so that they would not clack against the earth, I slid towards the back of the barn, where the farmer kept his water vessels. One, I was thirsty, and two, it wouldn’t be long before a sheep or two would come prancing by.
I gave myself two or three long licks of water. My nose became wet, and for a moment I could not smell anything. Mama would not be happy if she came to know that I was here, all alone, away from the pack. But what could happen? Sheep didn’t kill wolves. Not even ten of them could pluck a hair on one of us. But I knew what Mama would say. ‘You’re not a wolf yet, Luka. You’re just a pup.’
If I could catch one sheep on my own and drag it back to the rock, if I could show them all that I was ready – yes, Mama would never call me a pup again. I could see Mama’s smiling eyes on me, glowing with pride. The future head of the pack. Luka.
Something nice hit my nose just about then. It was soft like wool. It was tender, like the thigh of an ox. It went straight to my claws, and they came out on their own, digging into the dirt. The hair around my neck stood up. And I heard sounds – unsteady, carefree, with a little bleat accompanying each step – like it was humming to itself.
I gathered myself up, bent low to the ground, shifting from one of my front paws to the other, waiting. A shadow appeared beyond the corner, and it became larger and larger. I licked my lips, and once again I was thirsty, ready to spring and clutch at the neck. However big it was, I would take it down and drag it away. I was Luka, the head of the pack.
But then, as the shadow emerged and came into full view, I rose. I blinked. My eyes widened. What was this?
What stood in front of me was not a sheep. It was not even a lamb. It would have been born a few days ago, perhaps. She had a bell tied to her neck, and in tinkled with each step she took. I suddenly realized she had not seen me. I pushed myself closer to the wall, deeper into shadow, but my eyes stayed fixed on her. I’d never seen living eyes on a sheep before. The carcasses that the bigger wolves brought back to the rock always had such – such – dead eyes. These eyes saw, they blinked, they darted, they smiled – they – they were beautiful.
Yes, they were beautiful.
Go ahead, write your own piece in the comments section below. Don’t worry about how good or bad it is. Just write. At Write Club, we don’t judge!
Image Courtesy: Canyon Hills Friends
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