It was nearing dawn, outside the little cabin in New Hampshire, when my Aunt Marion died, at fifty-five. All night I sat beside her, moistening her parched lips with ice cubes. When necessary, I changed her colostomy bag. Occasionally, I dozed off, but not for long. This was the third night of our vigil – my other aunt, her sister Virginia – slept in the bed beside us. My Aunt Marion had colon cancer and had come home – to her own bed, her cabin, her favorite lake, to spend her final days.
I was a twenty-two year old college student on summer break. Stepping up to care for my Aunt Marion as she died changed my life. Her death sparked an awakening for me of my own mortality and vitality. So, when, years later, I found this picture of my independent, powerful, adventuresome aunt – captured in this archetypal pose of the archer, like the goddess Diana, stretching her bow, aiming her arrow, I asked my mother if I could keep it. This photo had arrested my attention in such a mysterious, powerful way. I knew I needed to unpack all the deeper meaning and wisdom, truth and beauty it held. As I wrote my first photo inspired poem, “Monadnock,” the process of unpacking the emotional experience of the photo helped me grieve in ways I had yet to for her loss. The poem, and the photo, helped me internalize this relationship and experience as a way of summoning inner wisdom, courage, strength and healing.
Since then, I have been leading writing and expressive arts workshops on writing from photos, integrating my training and experience as a psychotherapist, psychodramatist, poet, and playwright into my method.
We all take, save and inherit photographs of the people, places and things that bring meaning, mystery, hope and connection into our lives.
In my 6-week online class, How Pictures Heal: – Honoring Memory & Loss through Expressive Writing from Personal Photos, starting March 1st, these treasured personal archives will be the source of inspiration for writing as a means of restoring meaning, purpose, hope and resilience during and after loss. This method of writing from personal and treasured photos can help us grow personally, artistically, and emotionally, by:
Entering the three-dimensional world of photographs to stimulate meaning, surprise, delight and possibility;
Embracing the imaginative wonder of exploring role reversal and altered point of view in photos;
Writing the truth and beauty of relationship histories, exploring significant rites of passage and recognizing gifts that keep on giving;
Exploring nature, landscape and favorite places photos to stimulate curiosity, spirituality, comfort, relief and aesthetic satisfaction and transcendence;
Crafting first drafts (exploring forms, including character portraits, essays, poems, Monologues, letters, dialogues and creative list-making) and applying tools for revision).
- TLA practitioners at all levels of experience
- Anyone interested in personal and artistic development
- Professionals and para-professionals who work with memory challenged seniors
- Family members of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and caretakers of those with memory challenges, will find dynamic creative outlets for personal and professional development
- Writers and artists with an interest in exploring the healing aspects of personal photos may also be quite interested
We’ll create a safe and supportive environment, offering respectful support that inspires the development of every writer’s voice. I look forward to working with you!
How Pictures Heal: – Honoring Memory & Loss through Expressive Writing from Personal Photos, a 6-week online class with Kelly DuMar starting March 1st
Kelly DuMar, M.Ed. is a playwright and poet who facilitates Writing Truth & Beauty workshops across the US, including The Mass. Poetry Festival, The International Women’s Writing Guild, The Power of Words Conference, Southern Writers Conference, and Playback North America & more. Her poems are published in many literary magazines and her award-winning poetry chapbook, All These Cures, was published by Lit House Press in 2014. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist and former psychotherapist. She founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 10th year, and she moderates, Let’s Talk TLA, a bi-monthly teleconference and poetry open mic for members of the Transformative Language Arts Association. Kelly serves on the board & faculty of The International Women’s Writing Guild, and she’s a member of Playback North America. Her new poetry chapbook, Tree of the Apple, about her father’s Alzheimer’s, is published by Two of Cups Press. You can follow her on Instagram @kellydumar and learn more about Kelly at kellydumar.com
This perfect aim you take
points toward some mysterious,
You will never marry,
You will love animals and women,
teach other people’s children.
Baked dry as a bone,
you will bring Poncho and Bear,
back from the desert,
to bathe in Laurel Lake,
reeking of sage,
telling Indian stories.
You will teach us to hike
– to sing as we climb –
It’s the thrill of your life
when you get to the top,
This perfect aim you take,
Some day, when I am almost grown,
you’ll be too sick
to climb from your bed
for one last swim
I should help you take –
your bloated belly
rising like Monadnock
Death rattling your breath,
you will die at dawn
in my arms,
before you go, taking perfect aim
toward some mysterious peak
I will someday climb.
Copyright 2008 Kelly DuMar, All Rights Reserved (published in Emerge Literary Journal, and All These Cures)