This rock has been moved,
It has been worn down,
It has been used as a stepping stone and a seat.
It has often been overlooked as unimportant when
Put next to things that are perceived as more beautiful.
But this rock is more than just what we can see.
It is strong,
Although it is surrounded by things seen as more important,
The rivers and oceans,
The mountains and trees.
The rock is the only thing keeping the water in its place.
Keeping the mountains from crashing down.
Making sure the roots of the trees don’t spread too far.
The rivers and mountains may look more beautiful,
May seem more important,
But the rock is the piece that keeps it all together.
The day I wrote the poem above I was feeling quite unseen. That feeling transferred over when I saw the rocks by the water, and suddenly I thought they needed to be recognized. There might be some metaphorical stuff in there looking at it now, but at the time I simply wanted to write about a rock that had been through a lot and hasn’t ever been seen as anything important. I wanted to show it as something worth taking the time to look at and actually see it for what it is. Normally my poetry reflects on what I’m feeling in that moment as I use it as an outlet for my emotions. But recently I wanted to change my perspective, and have started looking at my surroundings like I looked at the rock; as something worthy enough to be seen by at least one person. And if that one person happens to be me, well then, I’ll write a short poem.
In school, they teach you how to write poetry. Well, they teach you what the basic fundamentals of writing poetry are. You have to put words on a page in a stanza-like form, maybe add a rhythm to it. It’s good instructions in order to pass the class, but they always miss what I think is the most important step in poem writing. Infusing the poem with the emotion that you put behind it. Whether this be in the way you write it, the way you read it, the emotion has to be there. I didn’t understand that when I first started writing poetry, that the emotion was what made the poem into what it is. I would write something down, and reread it and know something was missing but not know what. It was an incredibly frustrating time in my life because all I needed to do was write and yet whenever I did, it didn’t feel right. Nevertheless, I soon realized what was missing, and so, to add in that emotion, I started to write while I was crying. Crying led to anger, which led to more crying, which led to something resembling happiness, which eventually led to joy. And all the while I wrote. I wrote until one day I realized that I had a whole ton of poems written on the computer, in random books, on my hands. Wherever it was possible to write in the moment. And I knew that somewhere mixed in with all the crying and headaches the writing had become easier.
I have been writing poetry for almost three years now. And since I have started, it has become a weird sort of torture for me. Not torture as in the Google Dictionary definition. But more in the way that you love someone who’ll never be able to love you back, and you know that but just because they don’t love you doesn’t mean you can just stop loving them. Torture in the way that I love writing poetry so much, love getting it down on the page, love seeing it take form. Torture in the way that even though I love it, I thought it a weakness, and I denied to everyone that I had anything resembling a creative bone in my body. Torture in the way that I don’t find any of it good, and I’m scared to share it with the rest of the world. Torture in the way that even though sometimes I wish I could just stop the flow of words in my head, I find myself writing a line here, a stanza there, until once again I have another poem. So even though it’s some weird sort of beautiful torture, like loving someone who’ll never love you back, I continue. Because why would I ever want to stop?
The LOOP Summer Intensive
When I got the email saying that I had been picked to be one of the youth leaders for the Loop project, I was surprised. Like completely and utterly shocked. I had hoped to be accepted so badly, but when the email came through I thought that it must be a mistake. Afterall, the Loop project is a research and sculpture making project. Why would they ever want a teenage poet who doesn’t acknowledge that she writes poetry in her free time, and didn’t even put it in her application? I thought for sure that when I showed up for the first day of the intensive program, they would turn me away, confused as to why the person they meant to send the email to wasn’t there. But instead when I showed up they welcomed me with a smile, and when I asked the dreaded question of “Can I write?” They told me to do whatever feels most comfortable to me.
On I go through the week, writing when a line pops into my head (which wasn’t as often as I would have liked) and on Wednesday, I mention to the group that I wrote a poem about a rock while I was sitting on the rock by the river, watching as everyone else draws these amazing pictures. They ask if I can share it, and, (quite unlike my normal behavior) I share it with the group - reading it out loud in what I am sure was my ‘reading a poem’ voice. Upon finishing the last line I had written, to my surprise, everyone clapped. And (back to regular Julianna ways) I blushed a deep velvet red from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. For the rest of the day, I was complimented on the poem I had written about a rock. For the rest of the week I was asked about the poem, if I had finished it, if I had started on a new one. And, for the second time in my life, I felt that I actually belonged and had a place in a group.
The first intensive of our two-year research project wasn’t only to learn about Indigenous medicines and the land from our Elder. It wasn’t just so we could create charcoal, or take a tour of Fort Calgary and the Glenbow. Although these were the activities and things we learned about, and they were amazing (don’t get me wrong), this first week wasn’t just about all of the research we did. It was also about creating the small community that we had grown to become by the end of the week. Being able to sit next to one another and laugh at an inside joke. Remembering everyone’s names (which was not an easy feat to accomplish). Being able to sit in quiet as some of us doze off while we wait for the days’ activities to begin. Complimenting each others’ work, and giving feedback when asked to. Having your phone buzz every day after someone sends a funny meme into the group chat. Being able to have a sense of complete ease and trust whenever we did a new activity.
At the beginning of the week we were a bunch of young adults and artists that were thrown into a room together to do research and think of new sculptures that would bring joy to the community we love, but by the end we were a community of our own. And that might just be one of the most important things we were able to accomplish during our summer intensive.