Sunday, July 22, 2007

Writing Assignment

As part of the class, we have to do a number of writing assignments with Michael, Rauls' partner and a published author. Our first assignment involved writing our reaction to our first week in Oaxaca. This is what I wrote:


I never listen.

Our assignment was to inhabit a space in the city and only describe the sounds we hear. I found my way to Santo Domingo church, and drew in a quick breath as I entered, taken aback for a moment by the beauty of the place. Amber vines crawl across the ceiling and I followed both the positive and negative spaces they created against the whitewashed background. Gold leafing covers almost every surface of the church, and the room is immense. Tall columns bend to meet each other in wide arches, cradling luminous windows that filter the diffused light.

I chose a pew near the front of the church to sit down. They are restoring a wall to the left of the altar and I listened closely to the sound of sandpaper moving back and forth over an already smooth surface. Muffled voices and echoing footsteps come in and out of earshot as tourists walk up and down the center aisle. I would never do something like this at home. I have so many commitments in San Francisco that I rarely have a moment to myself unless it is scheduled. I certainly never have a chance to just sit and listen.

Traveling always reminds me what it is like to be a normal person, one who doesn’t work a full-time job, run a business, go to school, and plan a wedding at the same time. And although I can reasonably believe that my life is richer as a result of all the things I do, I also wonder how much I am missing. Even now, as I sit in Santo Domingo, I cannot follow a sound to the end of its echo without being distracted by a new one; and I could more clearly describe to you the scratch of a restorer’s sandpaper against this church wall than I could the rhythm of my kitties’ feet against hardwood, the song of the birds who live in our neighborhood, or the sound of wind rustling the leaves on the aspen tree in our back yard.

It is easy to understand a belief in the omnipotent power of God in a place like Santo Domingo. Even the smallest sound becomes monumental in the nature. I am reminded that there are two paths to a life of richness—the one that I’ve chosen and one that exists within the simplicity of stopping to listen as the world moves around me.

I am listening now.


Santo Domingo, from the outside:

Inside Santo Domingo:

I am not sure if I like the piece--the ending seems a little too "clean". But I think it's good for me to put it out there...just to get over the fear of being too exposed.

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