The pieces published below were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, which aims to enhance the mental and physical health and overall quality of life of people affected by early-stage dementia. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.
When I first began working with the Memory Connections group at Westlake Presbyterian Church, many of them tried to convince me that they were by no means writers, and I felt like it would be my job to convince them otherwise over the next four weeks. By the end of that first class, they had convinced me that the creative spirit lived in all of them, as demonstrated by their purity of insight and beautiful construction of our language into something uniquely theirs. Then my role became helping them to draw out that creativity, to tap those wells, and to act as a medium for those who found it difficult to transcribe the vastness of their thoughts onto the page. They rose to every challenge presented to them with good humor, passion, and unflagging support of one another. These folks overcame physical and mental boundaries to produce work that humbled and inspired me each week. Walls were broken down, tears were shed, and powerful stories and poems emerged, works that felt like they’d been hiding inside these writers for years, just waiting to come out.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
I am walking through the woods of Arkansas. It is early in the morning, and there is a soft breeze and light fog. I have explored these woods on many occasions, and on each exploration I always find something new or exciting.
As I sit quietly, I hear the snapping of a branch and then slowly, a beautiful doe steps into the meadow. Her brown eyes dart back and forth, and her nose sniffs for any unusual odor. Once satisfied, she bends to eat the soft green grass.
Two blue birds sweep by, settle on a branch, and begin clacking and speaking to each other. They snap up insects as they fly by. Suddenly, a large owl settles onto a branch, and the other birds quickly fly away. All is quiet again, except for the buzzing of insects.
I think of the times I have walked through these same woods with my father, wife, and children. Each memory is etched with emotion and wonder.
At times like this, you remember the times you have been harsh and immediately regret your transgressions. I think of the love I have received from my mother, father, and grandparents.
I walk back home as afternoon fades, and I remind myself to try to return the love that I have received from my family and friends. I also give a short prayer of appreciation for the Marines I treated in Vietnam. At times, the only thing I could do was to hold their hands as life slowly slipped away. As the tears slip down my cheeks, I realize how lucky I was to have loved ones I could relate to.
As the deer walk out of the woods, I slowly walk back to the camp where the Marines are currently entrenched and look to the time when I can be home again with my wife and family.
Playing basketball with my brothers
We’d hide out from my parents
The smell, sound, and taste of BBQ
Throwing balls to the dog
Walking with Stephanie
Find Your Way Home
The wild geese, heading home again,
Soar in the clear blue sky.
Listen to their calls.
Follow the sound as long as your ears allow,
Knowing the world is in your heart,
And your heart fits perfectly into the universe.
You and the geese love what you love,
And will find home soon.
Penguins jump in and out of the water.
They glide in and out of the sea.
I sit on the dock and watch as the kite
flies over the ocean, and the breeze is cool and green.
When the sun comes out, I put on my hat
and go have a beer.
Green is the color that says there is life!
Leaves in the spring ripple with green stripes.
All the green in the leaves provides rich nutrients
that bring more green and life to all.
Green provides food for all and beautiful growth.
Green makes me think of color to soon arrive.
The aqua blue sea calmly washed ashore over the smooth, sandy beach in this bay, while around the point, it was crashing wildly like a drunken sailor. Looking out through the waves, there was unlimited space under massive thunderclouds. Nothing else to see or do today but enjoy the coolness of the aqua colors surrounding me as I stood there in the buff.
An Ode to an Orange
You begin as green but end as an
Royalty seeks it, all others too.
As for desire and reproduction, PURPLE stimulates too!
Blue is desire and forward-looking, drawing purple.
Its love for humanity outweighs its care of self: a handsome one.
Other emotions—yellow, say—flow to it, emit from it.
Fit for personal use, an irresistible flow
of ebbing brightness.
Royalty adapts it to its position.
LOVE! Ah, sweet love,
filled with passion is chosen and warm,
carried and cared for, romantically calling
emotion, defining akin to a love.
All love should share
in this purple… this love.
Gently in water
Dive deeply, quietly, alone—
Red, White, and Blue!
The flag and patriotism.
Red is hot. The feeling of anger.
White is neutral. The feeling of purity.
Blue is feeling. The feeling of sadness.
Red, white, and blue signifies gratitude
for country. The U.S.A.!
Back Deck of Our Cottage: Glen Arbor, Michigan
Relaxing in my favorite chair on the back deck of our cottage in Michigan, I can often watch and hear the squirrels running along the top runner of our fence and chipmunks racing across our deck. Our heart-shaped flower garden contains beautiful flowers with a border of stones from the local quarry. The clear blue sky and breezes from Lake Michigan relax me. It is the perfect place to read, contemplate, and appreciate our good fortune and the beauty of nature.
I am writing from Muckross House in County Kerry, Ireland today—September 3, 2011. The house is yellow brick and quite large and sits on a lake. It is a beautiful estate with a vast green lawn and many trees starting to turn fall colors. There are people near the lake taking a horse and buggy ride. There are others playing croquet on the lawn.
It is a beautiful sunny day. The air is fresh and full of the happy sounds of people and animals. I love hearing the lilt of the Irish brogue and the smiles of locals as they go about their daily tasks. The tour guide is speaking of the family obtaining their wealth from shipping things to and from the continent. They have a lovely greenhouse that grows vegetables and plants for the estate.
It takes twenty-five workers to run this vast estate. Only ten live on the grounds. The others commute from nearby. The estate also has a large barn of race horses that are worked and trained on the grounds for the upcoming race deep in Kerry. Everyone is proud of what they contribute to the estate’s successful running.
We will have tea in the back garden since it is such a nice day. They will serve bread and cheese and small sweets to the guests. I am happy, wanting to sing a ditty. This trip has been relaxing and restful. Hope all is well at home. I will see you next week.
Love and God Bless,