by betsy willis and fran uhlenhopp
and I have been visiting Bravo pod at the nearby jail for over 6 months
and each visit brings surprises. Last Tuesday we found that three of
the women had been sent on to the women’s prison in Nashville
the night before. It was sudden, unexpected and left a void that was
filled with grief by the sudden separation.
pod has 12 double cells and the population has varied from 18 down to
the 6 that faced us with drooping shoulders and sad faces that morning.
The previous meeting we had ventured into Haiku. When I took home their
experiments I realized my instructions obviously were not clear. I was
prepared to reintroduce the exercise and present a simpler step-by-step
returned their papers after taking their words and using the 5-7-5 formula,
hoping that seeing it would clarify. I could see by their faces, it
did not. Ever hopeful, I took them through the task, their faces showing
boredom and great reluctance.
Someone offered an explanation for their lack of energy. “Nobody
slept much after they came in and got Beth and the others. We had to
talk and some of us cried. It’s hard. We’re tired.”
“OK, let’s write about those feelings, “ said Fran.
She was given a response of sighs and groans with, “I feel bad,
just awful. I don’t want to write them.”
With us both encouraging them to write the unpleasant thoughts, we managed
to get some writing done. It was accomplished by every maneuver we knew
except spoken threats.
stood and read her offering to which we affirmed with a loud, “Wow”,
a response we had settled on early in our time together. I felt it was
important to give encouragement regularly and loudly. The yelling seemed
to lift the despondent cloud and suddenly they were proud of themselves.
They had expressed feelings that were bad and it was OK.
rest of the session was spent in their explaining to each other how
they saw the haiku coming together. Their explanations were crystal
clear showing me how much I had to learn.
end each session by choosing a “blessing” from the Blessing
bowl, getting in a circle and telling how the words were blessings in
place or yet to come. Sometimes we sing some jaunty song and turn and
give the person next to us a shoulder massage. Then we pack up and leave
with loud and hearty goodbyes as well as their lusty declarations of
loyalty to us.
making our way to the intake desk to sign out, we pass through the series
of heavy steel doors. Over lunch we debrief ourselves and make plans
for the next session. We talk at length about the affect of the sudden
separation and the strong bonds that had been severed, not just the
Bravo women but for us too. Each visit gives us a clear new insight
into ourselves. Fran and I agreed we learn more than our students ever
Willis and Fran Uhlenhopp
go to a county jail regularly teaching and learning. They call their
program The Storytellers because they believe the most important thing
we possess is our story. They also believe there is freedom in writing
and where do we honor freedom more than in prison? They are supported
by the women’s mentoring program, Numina, which offers programs
to women “incarcerated” by their lives, not by steel bars.
For more information of these programs go to numinaprogram.org.
A Day In Bravo
by Jane D and Haiku.
WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA WOMAN
is a publication of INFINITE CIRCLES, INC.
BOX 1332 MARS HILL NC 28754 828-689-2988
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